Contents of Summer 2007 Collaborative Solutions Newsletter:

In this issue:

Assessing Our Progress & Celebrating Our Success
            Why does documentation and evaluation matter in collaborative solutions?
            What kinds of questions can an evaluation help answer?
            Community-based participatory evaluation
            A framework for evaluation of coalitions
            Community Story:  a neighborhood organization
            Levels of coalition assessment - tool
             Community Story: national organization with multiple sites
             Coalition Member Assessment - tool         
            Community Story: a small non-profit and two communities
            Tools and Resources
Highlights from Tom Wolff & Associates

Assessing Our Progress & Celebrating Our Success

Why does documentation and evaluation matter in collaborative solutions?

            The question, how we are doing? often comes up in community work involving collaborative solutions. Sometimes a coalition’s funders expect formal evaluations. At other times the question arises when a member says, “Well, we have been meeting for months [or years] and what have we accomplished? Is the community any better off?”
            We do often think that funders are the driving force that impels us to evaluate our coalition progress. However, if we look carefully we often discover that our members (especially our grassroots members) are often involved in a regular evaluation process. They vote with their feet by attending or dropping out of our community efforts. They participate when they perceive that the coalition is succeeding at creating change.
            Most collaborations are motivated to engage in an evaluation process because it is required for their funding. Someone on the outside has decided for them that evaluation is a necessity. Yet successful evaluations most often occur when the collaboration itself decides that there are critical questions that must be answered, such as: After having been at this for three years, are we getting anything done? Are we being effective? Is the way that we are set up the most effective? What do all of our members think about what we are doing? These kinds of questions can motivate a collaboration’s steering committee and staff to undertake an evaluation process with a high level of interest.
            Assessing our progress and knowing whether we are succeeding is vitally important to all of us. Yet we know that in most collaborative solution processes very little evaluation or assessment occurs (Cashman and Berkowitz, 2000). Coalitions may fail to evaluate their efforts for several reasons: (1) They lack motivation and interest; (2) They lack access to easy, usable tools for evaluating both the process and the outcome of the collaborative efforts; (3) They fear what evaluators might "find"; or (4) They fail to find appropriate evaluators and set up effective, mutually respectful relationships with them--relationships in which the data collected are actually useful.
            So why do collaborations become engaged in evaluations? There are some clear motivations: (1) They want to improve their work and getting feedback is one proven way to accomplish that; (2) They want to record and celebrate their successes; (3) They must report on their progress to a funder, a board, or the community; (4) They are thinking of their future and issues of sustainability, and a first step in ensuring ongoing viability is assessment that tells the group which activities to continue and which to jettison (
(CADCA, 2006 see Resources).

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What kinds of questions can an evaluation help answer?

What activities took place? A process evaluation focuses on day-to-day activities. Methodologies include activity logs, surveys, and interviews. Materials to track can include in-house developments, outside meetings, communications received, community participation, and media coverage. Surveys can rate the importance and feasibility of goals and the satisfaction of members. Process evaluation can also analyze critical events in the development of the collaboration. Process evaluation helps a coalition see the strengths and weaknesses of its basic structure and functions.

What was accomplished? An outcome evaluation focuses on accomplishments. It can include changes in the community (the number and type of shifts in policies or practices) as well as the development of new services. It can also involve surveys of self-reported behavior changes, rating the significance of outcomes achieved. The number of objectives met over time is a useful evaluation tool.

What were the long-term effects? An impact evaluation  focuses on the ultimate impacts that the collaboration is having on the community, over and above specific outcomes. The focus here is on statistical indicators of population-level outcomes. For example, a teen pregnancy collaboration might focus on the pregnancy rate for its community.

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Community-based participatory evaluation

            Once the results have been collected and reports written, the collaboration must actively disseminate the findings to the community so that its members can look at the data, decide what changes are necessary in response to the findings, and change or adapt the strategic plan and the collaboration’s activities in response to the results found in the evaluation.

            In order to satisfy the coalition’s interests, the evaluations must be both methodologically sound and intimately involved with the organization. Too often our evaluation processes and instruments are developed and implemented by outside evaluators. Coalition members only see the information many months or even years after it is collected, when final reports are prepared for the funder.

            In collaborative solutions processes, we strongly advocate for close working relationships between the evaluators, the coalition staff, and the community. You cannot learn from evaluation results that are not fed back to you regularly. Nor can you celebrate successes in a timely manner. You cannot develop a sustainability plan unless all coalition members have access to evaluation information. So when we work in collaborative situation we not only have to develop appropriate evaluation mechanisms, we have to develop whole new ways for the community to engage in the process.

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A framework for evaluation of coalitions

            Evaluation of coalitions is complex. The field and the literature are evolving and new research documentation systems and tools emerge on a regular basis. There are questions about what to measure and how to measure the process and the various levels of outcomes (Wolff, T. A Practical Approach to Evaluating Coalitions

            One of the best models for evaluating coalitions comes from the Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas ( Based on the Institute of Medicine’s framework for collaborative public health action in communities (2003), this evaluation model is described below. It’s easy to see that this model would apply not just to the coalition-building work of organizations but also to other systems-change agendas.

A framework for collaborative public health action in communities.

(Source: CDC, 2002; Fawcett et al., 2000; Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, 2003.)

           The model for participatory evaluation developed by Fawcett and Schultz (2007) is made easier through customized Internet-based Workstations that include online supports for documenting and analyzing accomplishments, graphing, and reporting (Fawcett et al, 2003). It provides clear pathways for understanding the change processes involved in collaborative solutions, and therefore for understanding the evaluation questions that follow. In most efforts that involve collaborative solutions, we are working with multiple factors that produce multiple and interrelated outcomes. No single intervention--no one program or policy change targeting one behavior--is likely to improve population-level outcomes. Often there are long time delays between a collaborative’s actions and the resulting widespread behavior change. So it is difficult to assess whether any effort, or combination of efforts, is bringing about change. And of course the most important thing we want to know is whether our efforts are producing change.
           With the KU Work Group’s participatory evaluation model (Fawcett, et al., 1995; 2000; 2003; 2004), groups document new programs, policies, and practices, along with the community and systems changes that are the critical components of the coalition effort. Programs, policies, and practices—changes in communities and systems-- are central to this model. If we think about it, these three really do capture the intermediary changes that most of us see along the path to community change. Say we are looking to reduce the level of smoking in a given community. Before we can measure the population-level reduction in smoking, we can document that we've put smoking-cessation classes in place, smoking-prevention programs in the schools, policies on smoking cessation in workplaces, and policies to ban smoking in restaurants. We can also document changes in smoking behavior (practices) in multiple settings (schools, work, entertainment). Documentation of these types give us an excellent intermediary way to measure a coalition’s success long before we can document the change in smoking levels in the community as a whole.

The KU Work Group’s participatory evaluation framework (Fawcett et al., 2004; Institute of Medicine,  2003), detailed below, proposes a general model with evaluation questions related to the five phases of the IOM model.

Overall question:
Is the initiative serving as a catalyst for change related to the specific goals?

Evaluation questions at each of the five phases are:

  1. Assessment and collaborative planning
    1. How has the coalition developed its organizational capacity?
    2. Does the coalition have a vision and a plan for community mobilization?
    3. Is the coalition membership inclusive of all community sectors?
  2. Targeted action intervention
    1. Has the coalition developed measurable and targeted action steps?
    2. Is the coalition taking actions to reach its goals?
    3. Will these action steps help the coalition reach its goals and meet its objectives?
  3. Community and systems change
    1. Does the coalition create community changes, defined as changes in programs, policies, and practices?
    2. Have participating organizations changed programs, policies, and practices? (These are the intermediary outcomes that seem to be able to predict the ultimate population-level change).
  4. Widespread behavior change
    1. How widespread is the change?
    2. Where have these changes occurred and what form do they take?
    3. Are changes happening in many sectors and systems?
  5. Improvement in population-level outcomes
    1. How are community/system changes contributing to the efforts to improve the community?
    2. Are community/system changes associated with improvements in population-level outcomes?

            The chart above plots out both community changes (policies, practices, programs) and population-level outcomes. The relationship of the curve changes for these measures is one way of getting attribution.

            Although this model was especially developed around health issues, it generalizes quite well to most types of community change (see Fawcett et al, 2004). Thus, an ultimate population-level outcome may be the level of smoking in a community and level of smoking-related illness (for a health-related concern) or it may be the level of violence, or the level of access to adult basic education for immigrants (for social concerns).

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Community Story:  A Neighborhood Organization, Documentation/Evaluation

            The best way to show you what we mean is to tell you about some of the work we do with coalitions and communities. We get called upon to conduct or assist with evaluations in many ways. On the most basic level, we work with grassroots neighborhood groups who need to track their successes for themselves and their stakeholders. On a larger scale, we are contracted to evaluate national coalition-building programs with numerous sites across the country. In both cases, the core question is what information will help the coalition grow and be able to demonstrate its accomplishments to its members and its stakeholders.
            With the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center (CNC) in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, we helped them shift their mission and work from a service framework back to its roots in community development and community organizing. It received funding from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts and a green light from its board for this shift. Following this change, both the coalition and the foundation needed to see whether the new plan was really going to work. Because little community development work was occurring in the neighborhood, how to asses the new approach was a mystery for many in the area. Community development was also new territory for the staff, so we designed a documentation process that would help the staff stay on track at the same time as they recorded their progress.

             We adapted the University of Kansas’ Online Documentation and Support System (for information on purchasing these services go to the KU Work Group’s website: ). This is based on the Ku Work Group’s efforts to  provide the grassroots group with a low-cost/no-cost tracking system. The staff defined and logged activities, recorded number of people involved, and tracked resources generated, planning products, services provided, community actions by staff and residents, and community changes. (See definitions below). As a result of these records, CNC was able to provide charts and commentary in its report to its funder and its board .

Below is an example from a CNC report/grant application:

The CNC used the Kansas Documentation System as a tool to document and evaluate its community development activities. This tool has been used by such organizations as the Centers for Disease Control, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Kansas Health Foundation.            

Log – All community development activities were tracked by entries in a comprehensive log. Ninety-four activities were documented by the CNC during the past year. The log entries provide a view of both activities and community response.

Documentation system – This system was used to track community changes that were created by community coalitions and community development activities. The logged data and other information tracked the progress of the initiative in relation to the following variables, which are defined below:

Community Actions--Residents: Activities aimed at community change completed by the volunteer group outside of CNC.

Community Actions--Staff: Activities aimed at community change completed by CNC staff.

Resources Generated: New services, funds, or materials generated by resident volunteers
and staff.

Services Provided: Activities by the resident volunteers that occur in the CNC.

Planning Products: Creation of task forces, mini-grant applications, recruitment, PEP, etc.

Community Change: Policy, practices and procedures (PPP) in the community that assist the CNC in reaching community changes (i.e. cleaner neighborhood)

Increases in community activities and community changes continue to be most critical to CNC’s efforts. The tables below indicate the greatest increase in three major areas--planning products, resources generated, and community actions--residents. There is a steady, but lesser, increase in community actions--staff, services provided, and community changes. The table reflects that during the first six months of the project, internal capacity was built by hiring staff, reaching out to the community, and structuring next steps. The progress increased in June after the community meeting where volunteer groups came together to address community issues.

Total Community Progress

                                              Chart 1

Charts broken down by category

 Chart 2

Community Actions--Residents – The most frequent activities measured were actions by community residents. Examples of this category were: resident-led street clean ups, bi-weekly resident meetings, GED and PEP classes, and International Food Night. This illustrates that mobilization efforts were very effective, resulting in residents increasingly acting to improve their neighborhood.

Community Actions--Staff – The graph reflects the role of staff as catalysts, with community residents’ roles as leaders. The high level of residents’ activities has been a positive challenge to the staff.

                                                                               Chart 3

Resources Generated – Reflected in this graph is the level of new, local resources that were raised as a match to Community Foundation’s funding. Examples included residents:

  • Donating time as skilled computer technicians to fix equipment
  • Writing newspaper articles on the neighborhood changes and the newsletter
  • Earning funds to supplement staff and program salaries
  • Assisting with building maintenance
  • Fundraising on behalf of the center to supplement programming expenses

Services Provided – Traditionally, these would have incorporated the CNC’s food pantry, clothes closet, and translation services. However, thanks to the efforts of the community development process, new services have emerged, which include:

  • Residents meetings
  • Yard sales that are coordinated by residents
  • Thanksgiving donations

The above services originated in the CNC and were identified by the resident volunteers.

                                                                                    Chart 4

Planning Products – The graph shows the development of appropriate planning products to move the community development process along. These included the creation of resident working groups, such as the Parent Initiative, the Traffic Safety group, and the Community Activity groups. It also included staff and consultant ongoing planning.

Community Change – This graph shows that community changes have occurred as an outcome of community actions. Below are examples of new community changes that have resulted from the CNC community development process:

  • Cleghorn is cleaner
  • Relationships with residents (CNC to Resident and Resident to Resident) have been built
  • The CNC has been successful in advocating for residents (discrimination issue)
  • There is more police presence in the neighborhood
  • More first-time voters are registered
  • Residents of different ethnicities have been brought together in celebration

            Although this project is still in its infancy, the successes to date have laid the foundation for continued growth. The Cleghorn neighborhood and the residents involved with the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center are becoming a catalyst for community change. This change will lead to a revitalization of the historic Cleghorn Neighborhood and will simultaneously engage and empower its residents.

            Ultimately, we are looking for changes in policy, practices, and procedures in the community; an increase in Latino leadership; and a strategy to be implemented to bring diverse people to the table.
Ref. Cleghorn Neighborhood Center Grant Submission

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Many levels of coalition assessment

            When we set out to document our collaborative solutions work, we have lots of choices as to what we will look at and what we will measure. We can ask mainly internal-process questions about whether the coalition has the members and core processes that it needs. We can ask about relationships and changes in relationships, which emerge as both process and outcome components critical to a collaborative’s success. Finally, we can ask about the various levels of outcomes, or end results.
            A Level of Coalition Assessment Tool has been developed that describes the range of questions we can choose from when we document our coalitions’ work.  We use this list to help clients decide what they want to learn about through documentation and evaluation. In a collaborative participatory evaluation process, the members of the coalition and the community can review these questions to decide what is most important for them to know. This helps ensure that the evaluation is aimed at the key needs of the coalition’s members.

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Community Story: National Organization with Multiple Sites-Documentation and Evaluation

            One example of the use of a list of levels of assessment, like the one referenced above,  involves our work with a federal project with 17 sites covering the nation. In the last year, we were asked to evaluate the progress of each of the 17 networks on its collaborative ventures. Our efforts have involved a number of steps. We started with the list of questions on the levels of assessment to help us all understand what the federal agency and the networks wanted to assess. The evaluation ultimately included a review of the work to date; the development and completion of oral interviews of the 17 directors and staff; and the development of an online Coalition Member Assessment form.

Coalition Member Assessment Tool

           The Coalition Member Assessment Tool is a variation of earlier satisfaction surveys ( - see Gillian Kaye, Steve Fawcett instruments)   that allow members to rate their coalition on a 1-5 scale, from agree to strongly disagree. The instrument has 44 rated questions and a few open-ended questions. It covers the following areas:
            Vision – planning, implementation, progress
            Leadership and membership
            Systems outcomes
            Benefits from participation
            Open-ended questions

            The Coalition Member Assessment lends itself to online survey mechanisms (Survey Monkey at, Zoomerang at that make it easy to administer the survey and tabulate the results.

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Community Story: A Small Non-Profit and Two Communities, - Documentation and Evaluation

            Another evaluation story involves our work with a small substance-abuse agency in upstate New York where we helped them to track their development work in two struggling communities. This evaluation was designed to allow the staff, which was untrained in evaluation, to conduct the evaluation themselves and to feed back data to the community on a regular basis. A notebook was developed that included logs of all activities undertaken by the coalition (staff and community members), minutes from meetings, records of meeting attendance, and copies of all community press coverage. Most coalitions ordinarily keep this type of information, so it could easily be channeled to produce the core data for both process and outcome evaluations.
             One of the goals of the coalition was to create leadership. The attendance and logs were examined to document moments when community members took a leadership role. These were charted.
             The regular logs of activity were analyzed through a system developed by the University of Kansas (Fawcett et al 1995; 2000; 2003; 2004) to document collaborative outcomes. The initiative documented services provided, planning products, resources generated, community actions, and community changes. These variables were charted in a cumulative graph.
             A format was created for evaluating all training opportunities for community members, and finally a member-satisfaction survey and follow-up interviews were implemented.
             All of these were pretty straightforward mechanisms. They were implemented by a local staff person who had little background in evaluation but worked with care and produced a highly successful notebook. The notebook provided a clear picture of the coalition’s activities and successes. As the data emerged, it was regularly shared with coalition members at their monthly meetings. The community participants found the information useful and the completed notebook provided impressive coverage of the coalition’s activities for the large foundation that was supporting its work.
            This project offers a wonderful example of how a consultant can build the client’s evaluation capacity instead of doing the evaluation. One advantage of this approach is that evaluation can be easily integrated into the coalition’s daily work—both gathering information and immediate use of the findings. In this case, the staff person regularly shared evaluation information with members as it emerged. Another advantage is that the sponsoring organization ends up with a staff person who has new evaluation skills.

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            We hope that this issue of the Collaborative Solutions Newsletter will help our readers feel more comfortable and less intimidated with the idea of assessing progress and celebrating successes. We hope to help coalitions feel that they are able to proceed with documentation and evaluation of their collaborative efforts on their own.
            Documentation and evaluation are important. They allow you to understand where your coalition is going; what your members feel about the direction; and whether, indeed, you're making a difference.       
            Documentation and evaluation of collaborative efforts is understandable and do-able. It does not have to be a mystery. It does not have to call up old math anxiety. It can simply involve asking the key people the key questions.
            Documentation and evaluation can help your coalition answer critical questions about your efforts. Are you all clear on where you are headed? Do you have a viable structure? What changes are you really creating? Is your progress steady?
Documentation and evaluation, when done in a participatory manner so that the coalition and not the evaluator is in charge, will help your coalition grow.

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            CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). (2002). Syndemics overview: What procedures are available for planning and evaluating initiatives to prevent syndemics? The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Syndemics Prevention Network. Available online at Accessed June 13, 2007.
            Fawcett, S.B., Francisco, V.T., and Schultz, V.T. (2004). Understanding and improving the work of community health and development. In J. Burgos and E. Ribes (Eds.), Theory, basic, and applied research and technological applications in behavior science. Guadalajara, Mexico: Universidad de Guadalajara.
            Fawcett, S. B., Francisco, V. T., Hyra, D., Paine-Andrews, A., Schultz, J. A., Russos, S., Fisher, J. L., and Evensen, P. (2000). Building healthy communities. In A. Tarlov and R. St. Peter (Eds.), The society and population health reader: A state and community perspective (pp. 75-93). New York: The New Press.
            Fawcett, S.B., Schultz, J.A., Carson, V. L., Renault, V.A., and Francisco, V.T. Using Internet based tools to build capacity for community-based participatory research and other efforts to promote community health and development. In M. Minkler and N. Wallerstein (Eds.), Community based participatory research for health (pp. 155-178). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
            Fawcett, S. B., Sterling, T. D., Paine-Andrews, A., Harris, K. J., Francisco, V. T., Richter, K. P., Lewis, R. K., and Schmid, T. L. (1995). Evaluating community efforts to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
            Institute of Medicine. (2003). The community. In The future of the public’s health in the 21st century (pp. 178-211). Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

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Tools and Resources:

How to purchase participatory evaluation services and online supports from the University of Kansas Work Group for Community Health and Development: The KU Work Group can build and provide technical support for a customized Online Documentation and Support System for your initiative (Link to below and link to  KU Work Group’s website

Building Healthy Communities – Lessons and Challenges,
Berkowitz ,B.& Cashman,S, Community 3(2), 1-7 2000

CADCA Report Drug-Free Communities Support Program National Evaluation.– 2006 National Evaluation of DFC (Drug Free Communities) Program Shows Successful Coalitions Exhibit Similar Characteristics National Coalition Institute Research into Action April1,2007 Office of National Drug Control Policy. (2007). Annual findings report 2006: Drug-Free Communities Support Program National Evaluation. Battelle & the Association for the Study and Development of Community. Click here to download the 2006 Annual Findings Report.:

Monitoring and Evaluation of Coalition Activities and Success by Stephen Fawcett, David Foster, and Vincent Francisco. Chapter in From the Ground Up: A Workbook on Coalition Building and Community Development by Tom Wolff and Gillian Kaye.

A practical approach to evaluating coalitions. Tom Wolff in Backer,T. (Ed.)
Evaluating Community Collaborations. Springer Publishing, p57-112, 2003.

Studying the Outcomes of Community-Based Coalitions, Berkowitz, Bill
In The Future of Community Coalition Building American Journal of Community
Psychology Vol. 29, no.2, 213-228, 2001

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Highlights of recent work by Tom Wolff & Associates

The last six months have been an especially productive and busy time for Tom Wolff & Associates. We are delighted to have been engaged in exciting work with numerous organizations at local, state, and national levels.Some highlights are noted below:

Boston College: Building community – university relationships to increase capacity regarding substance-abuse prevention.

Boston’s REACH 2010 program: Disparities in breast and cervical cancer among Black women. Ongoing consultation and training focused on sustainability.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: Ongoing support to the Strategic Partnership for Change coalition building efforts of the End Stage Renal Disease Networks within CMS. Consultation, training and program evaluation.

Cleghorn Neighborhood Center: Ongoing consultation to grassroots neighborhood organization.

Enlace, Holyoke: Building the Next Generation of Latino Leadership in Holyoke.
Coordinating all existing community coalitions for the benefit of the community.

First National Conference for Caregiving Coalitions--Creating a Legacy: Sustaining Your Efforts, March 2007, Chicago, IL.

Healthy Wisconsin Leadership Institute--Creating a Legacy: Sustaining Your Efforts, April 2007, Madison, WI.

Highland Valley Elder Services: Consultation--building community assets in elder communities and elder housing.

Kansas Health Foundation 2007 Recognition Grant Conference: Collaborative Solutions for Communities. What do we think and know about Collaboration? April 2007, Wichita, KS.

Society for Community Research and Action: Creating and planning the First Community Psychology Practice Summit.

Wyoming Tobacco Coalitions: Building and Sustaining Wyoming’s Tobacco Coalitions, April 2007, Casper, WY.

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