Evaluation 2019: Paths to the Future of Evaluation: Contribution, Leadership, and Renewal

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Redefining the meaning of place, power and sustainability in community change initiatives

Session Number: 2735
Track: Systems in Evaluation
Session Type: Multipaper
Tags: #EvaluatingSDOH, system evaluation
Session Chair: Pennie Foster-Fishman [Professor - Michigan State University]
Presenter 1: Lisa Szymecko [Evaluation Specialist - Michigan State University]
Presenter 2: Corbin J. Standley [Graduate Research Assistant - Michigan State University]
Presenter 3: Tyler Virden [Student - Michigan State University]
Presentation 1 Additional Author: Pennie Foster-Fishman [Professor - Michigan State University]
Presentation 2 Additional Author: Tyler Virden [Student - Michigan State University]
Presentation 2 Additional Author: Abby Wattenberg [Michigan State University]
Time: Nov 13, 2019 (04:30 PM - 05:30 PM)
Room: CC M100 A

Abstract 1 Title: Context Matters: Why a Focus on Place Matters in State-Wide initiatives
Presentation Abstract 1:

To evaluate systems change, evaluators need to be able to engage in systems thinking and to treat the system or systems targeted for change as the evaluand.  This means inquiring into and documenting the development of interrelationships, changing boundaries, and emerging perspectives that provide windows into the processes, effects, and implications of systems change (Williams, 2005, 2008; Williams & van ’t Hof, 2014).  However, in the evaluation of large state-wide initiatives, data aggregation can tell a narrative that does not represent the individual experiences of engaged communities. This presentation demonstrates the value of understanding individual communities in a multi-community initiative and demonstrates how interactions between local conditions and the evaluation framework affect outcomes reported. We will compare results within individual communities as well as the state-side story to illustrate what we risk as evaluators when our focus is on telling the aggregate story. 

Abstract 2 Title: “Power To”: Restructuring Power to Create Community Change
Presentation Abstract 2:

Many of the societal issues we aim to redress are entrenched in power dynamics. An often-unexplored aspect of these dynamics is the relationships within partner organizations and communities. In this session, we present mixed-methods evaluation data from surveys, focus groups, and interviews that highlight multiple competing priorities and power dynamics within a statewide collaborative community change initiative. Broadly, data revealed that power dynamics are not only influenced by who is at the table, but also by who is empowered to do the work. As such, we found that the conventional theories around power dynamics do not fully capture the complexity of power differentials that exist within community change initiatives. To better capture this complexity, we present a model of power redistribution to highlight the importance of a “power to” dynamic that acquiesces power in order to foreground community voice and mobilize stakeholders to action.

Abstract 3 Title: How Do We Keep This Going: Sustainability of a Community Health Initiative
Presentation Abstract 3:

While many recommend that initiatives incorporate a focus on sustainability from the beginning, it is less common for evaluators to assess the potential for sustainability at baseline data collection. A multi-level framework focused on building the systems to achieve equitable population level outcomes was developed to capture the developmental changes needed for success and sustainability. This paper will describe the sustainability indicators within this framework and the findings from a baseline data collection with 180 cross-sector stakeholders launching a health transformation effort across five sites. Findings suggest that individual, organizational, and community level factors are associated with the potential for sustainability. We will present the conceptual framework, baseline findings and describe how the community and state partners are using these results to foster the sustainability of this effort.

Audience Level: Intermediate

Session Abstract (150 words): 

Placed-based initiatives have evolved over the last 25 years to become one of the most popular approaches for addressing significant community problems like poverty, educational failure, escalating health crises, and racial equity. Despite advancements in approaches and methodologies, evaluation practices have struggled to keep pace with the demands of understanding the complexity associated with these initiatives. This panel will discuss three critical characteristics of most place-based initiatives – context, power, and sustainability potential - and how evaluators can position themselves to consider these elements. Methods and findings from a multi-site health transformation initiative will be presented to illustrate attention to these elements

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