Posted Monday, August 4, 2014 at 1:40 pm

A very interesting meeting happened in Montreal in July. The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Lucie and Andre Chagnon Foundation invited foundation colleagues from Canada and the United States to a workshop focusing on Evaluation and Learning for Aligned Action.

The workshop included a number of evaluation experts and practitioners. Vibrant Communities was invited to share our lessons learned about our journey to getting to shared outcomes. I have attached with this post a Pecha Kucha I prepared to entice everyone to my workshop and the power point we prepared about how collectively our movement has gone on this journey of developing a common evaluation framework. Those in the room were very interested in the Vibrant Communities evolution over the past 12 years.

Tamarack and Vibrant Communities has taken the lead in developing a shared evaluation framework for the cities engaged in place-based poverty reduction efforts. From 2002-2012, this included 13 cities from coast to coast in Canada. Over the past two years, this network has expanded to include more than 50 cities across the country. While the common evaluation framework is coordinated nationally, each of the cities collects local data and contributes their results through an annual survey. Most recently, Vibrant Communities Canada has partnered with the Community Data Program to purchase population level data for each of the cities. This set of 12 population level indicators will enable us to track impact on an annual basis.

Vibrant Communities Canada and our cities partners annually review and reflect on the individual and collective results. This annual reflection is instrumental to understanding the progress we are making and some of the challenges local communities face when working collectively to achieve change.

This post has led me to consider the evaluation journey in more detail. Often power points don’t provide the details about the hard graft that went into each step. This timeline may give you a better sense that where we are today, is not just one point in time, but an evolution of experiences, conversations, learning, testing, reviewing and revising our collective efforts. Most of us only look back on the last three months or the last year. Twelve years is a long time to reflect – but each step was critical in the path.

Advice and Lessons Learned:

  • Getting to shared outcomes is more than a process. Deepening our understanding and learning about shared outcomes is a journey.
     
  • A clear and shared understanding of the issue, in our case poverty, emerged out of the work. At the beginning, we did not have this shared understanding. Once it was developed, it was easier to build a common evaluation framework across different sites.
     
  • The Sustainable Livelihoods Asset Pentagon was vital in developing a common evaluation framework. Each city, despite undertaking different activities, was engaged in building assets. The Assets Pentagon allowed us to compare results across each city.
     
  • When working across multiple sites, look for scalable results. The CCSD Community Data Program allows Vibrant Communities to purchase shared and comparable data across different cities.
     
  • Have patience and focus on learning and improving in each evaluation round.

    View a PDF of the below timeline of activities by Vibrant Communities.
     
YEAR

VIBRANT COMMUNITIES

HISTORICAL TIMELINE

GETTING TO SHARED OUTCOMES:

TOOLS AND RESOURCES

1996-2000
  • Opportunities 2000 launched in the Waterloo, Ontario Canada region – a place-based poverty reduction activities with the goal of moving 2000 families out of poverty by the year 2000
  
2000
  • Opportunities 2000 is able to move 1600 individuals out of poverty in Waterloo Region
  • By the end of 2000, Opportunities surpasses its target
  • Creating Pathways out of Poverty in Waterloo Region. 2000. Don McNair and Eric Leviten-Reid.
2001
  • Talks begin which focus on scaling the Opportunities 2000 effort in other communities across Canada
  • Maytree Foundation works with Paul Born to establish Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement to, in part, lead the expansion of Opportunities 2000 across Canada
  • The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, Caledon Institute of Social Policy and Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement collaborate to develop Vibrant Communities Canada
2002
  • Vibrant Communities Canada launched in 2002
  • Six cities recruited to become Vibrant Communities ‘Trail Builders’: Victoria, BC; Niagara Region, Ontario; Saint John, New Brunswick; Saint-Michel/Montreal, Quebec; Edmonton, Alberta and Calgary, Alberta
2003
  • A number of tools begin to be developed to assist the evaluation and learning of Vibrant Communities Trail Builders
2004
  • Vibrant Communities engaged CAC International as an external evaluator to conduct an assessment of the progress of VC
2005
  • Mid-Term Assessment of Vibrant Communities completed and published
  • Initiative begins to deepen their understanding of how to build a movement for change
2006
  • Seven addition cities become Vibrant Communities ‘Trail Builders’: Abbotsford and Surrey, British Columbia; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Hamilton and Waterloo Region, Ontario; Trois Rivieres, Quebec; St. John’s, Newfoundland and Laborador
2007
2008
  • Common Evaluation Framework is developed for Vibrant Communities
  • VC partners begin reporting every 6 months on their progress
  • Learning and Evaluation for Vibrant Communities Trail Builders: The Pan Canadian Process was upgraded in 2008 and set the framework for VC communities
  • Creating Vibrant Communities. How Individuals and Organizations from Diverse Sectors of Society are Coming Together to Reduce Poverty in Canada. 2008. Paul Born
2009
  • First Annual Vibrant Communities By the Numbers Report is Published
  • VC partners are engaged in a shared learning and sense making session reviewing the VC by the Numbers Report
  • Targets are upgraded based on the results achieved by VC partners
2010
  • Vibrant Communities Canada begins summative evaluation phase for the first 10 years of the initiative
  • VC Canada begins discussion with communities about scaling up to 100 cities as Cities Reducing Poverty
  • Second Annual VC By the Numbers report is published
  • The By the Numbers Report provides background for the Summative Evaluation report: Evaluating Vibrant Communities 2002-2010.
  • Tamarack and Vibrant Communities host National Partners in a Strategic Dialogue on Poverty
2011
  • VC Canada continues discussion with communities about scaling up to 100 cities as Cities Reducing Poverty
  • Third Annual VC By the Numbers Report Published and sense-making sessions occur
2012
  • VC Canada officially launches Cities Reducing Poverty
  • Vibrant Communities 2002-2012 phase with 13 city partners officially concludes
  • Final VC By the Numbers Report published
2013
  • Vibrant Communities – Cities Reducing Poverty Network approves the Common Evaluation Framework which was developed by the VC Evaluation Action Team
  • Development of the online evaluation tool
  • Development of a partnership with the CCSD Community Data Program to purchase data for 12 population level indicators for cities partners
2014
  • 55 cities/regions now connected to the Vibrant Communities – Cities Reducing Poverty Network
  • 60 additional cities/regions across Canada more loosely connected
  • Common Evaluation Framework - 12 Common Population Indicators for 50 communities and Provinces/Territories
     
  • Cities complete on-line survey providing details about Participation, Performance, Progress, Population and Policy Measures