How Evaluation has Enhanced Cross-sector Collaborations to Help Address Community Issues
Ruby Lopez Harper first met Sheri Chaney Jones, founder and president of both Measurement Resources Company and SureImpact, Inc., when she served as grants and services director for the Greater Columbus Arts Council.
“Sheri presented an all-day workshop on measurement, and that experience changed my life,” said Ruby Lopez Harper, vice president, Equity and Local Arts Engagement at Americans for the Arts. “She made evaluation accessible and practical for people like me. It changed the way I thought about my work, and how our organization could better support the work that was happening in the community.”
In 2016, Lopez Harper moved to Washington, DC, where she has since become vice president, Equity and Local Arts Engagement at Americans for the Arts (AFA), the national nonprofit advancing the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts. Upon her arrival, the organization hadn’t yet fully integrated evaluation throughout its operations. In 2018, Lopez Harper brought Measurement Resources in to help AFA build a comprehensive evaluation plan for the organization’s Artists at the Community Development Table. Measurement Resources has continued to help AFA develop evaluation plans for multiple community engagement initiatives, along with providing thought leadership and capacity-building services to the organization’s members and partner organizations.
Measurement Resources’ evaluation services and training have helped AFA’s program leaders to better understand how effective its projects and programs are in terms of teaching artists and arts agencies how to engage successfully in cross-sector collaborations to address core community issues such as education, poverty, housing, environment, and health.
“One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Sheri is her ability to help not just establish and design evaluation plans and maps, but to also back-build them and ultimately, help organizations build them forward, better,” said Lopez Harper. “It’s improving across the social sector, generally, but I think people still struggle with building evaluation into the initial program design. It can’t be an afterthought. So when you get to that point and you realize you haven’t built out that structure, to be able to have someone like Sheri walk you through the basic things you can measure up to this point, and here’s what you can measure going forward, is really helpful. It’s difficult for people who aren’t in evaluation to be able to see those bridges.”
The evaluation plan acts as a road map for AFA, and Measurement Resources has developed evaluation plans for multiple program formats. From multiyear, in-person programming to digital learning, AFA has practiced continuous improvement of its existing programs, but these evaluation efforts have also informed the organization’s approach to new program development.
“The templates that Measurement Resources provides are strong,” says Lopez Harper. “They’re guiding in a way that they can be replicated and consistent for new programs, but we can also incorporate everything that’s new and distinct about a new program or environment.”
AFA’s evaluation structure ensures that its programs are on track. It also provides clarity to its end-users in terms of establishing what the organization or the specific program is trying to accomplish, so that end-users can provide feedback that AFA can use to recalibrate and improve over time.
“The thing I’ve felt most empowered by through our work with Measurement Resources, has been the realization that all of it is doable,” says Lopez Harper. “It’s not out of reach. It feels and sounds so big, but what you get back makes it doable.”
Measurement Resources builds on your current practices, simplifying measurement going forward.
If your organization is struggling with what and how to measure your outcomes and social impact over time, we’re here to help. Learn more about our evaluation services, as well as our suite of high-performance measurement services that are available to nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and collective impact initiatives. Contact us today to schedule an introductory meeting, so that you can share your current measurement practices and learn how our team can help move your organization’s mission forward.