Connecting local responses around the world
My name is Albie Colvin, this is my first Community Life Competence post, bit nervous.
I am a young Melbourne-based social entrepreneur/philanthropist; I run ACGD Design - community based creative communications company, and I am the founder of Colour Them Safe (CTS) - small international arts initiative aimed at improving the livelihoods of disadvantaged young people through art programs and partnerships.
Until two years ago I had little knowledge of evaluation. Retrospectively this seems odd, given evaluation has now become central to my work, particularly with the development of CTS.
CTS has been piloted in Indonesia and Nepal and both pilots have made significant achievements. During the first pilot in Indonesia, CTS engaged 110 young people, conducted three weeks of art making, linked up with three volunteers and developed a community mural. Much was learnt from the experience of implementing an Australian managed community based art program in a foreign country and this learning informed the next pilot in Nepal.
The Nepal pilot involved 73 young people, 300 pieces of artwork and four weeks of art making. In addition to these outputs however, the Nepal pilot team also developed corporate program resources and worked within existing in-country structures with a view to producing tailored, sustainable and more effective program outcomes. Evidence of this shift is the fact that the program developed its first training manuals, made contact with 15 local volunteers and trained seven local volunteers in facilitating art classes.
Much of these achievements can be attributed to evaluation. In particular having access to evaluation capacity building, on going mentoring and regular support.
Below are a few of the tools I have found to have be useful and have impact in the development of CTS:
1. Evaluative thinking – One of the tools that has helped develop my evaluative thinking as an program developer is a simple reflection exercise made up of three short questions - What worked? (i.e positives)? What did not work (i.e. challenges)? And how does this relate to the program (CTS)? During the Nepal pilot I responded to these questions everyday in writing, via a video blog, and at times also using art. This exercise I found contributed to much of my learning, helped me adapt to the changing landscape of the program and still continues to inform my decision-making. I found this to be a very accessible way of documenting the developments and learning of the program. I also facilitated a short workshop with our Nepal community partner and some of the volunteers so they too could adopt reflective practice in their programs.
2. Community mapping - One of community mapping tools that has helped CTS is a readiness survey. A series of questions for potential participants that helps determine how ‘ready’ they are for the programs, or if they are even the right fit for the programs. These surveys help tailor the programs to each of the participant groups and ensure resources are allocated effectively. A simple yet effective way of enabling the CTS community to provide appropriate and sustainable programs.
3. Logic modelling - One of the tools I feel has the potential to really improve the design and development of CTS long term is a program logic model. Understanding logic modelling has been challenging to understand; however at the same time the most rewarding. It has enabled CTS to create a visual map describing the investments and activities required to achieve realistic outcomes and impact for CTS’s programs. It is also an important tool for monitoring and measuring success. Even though mapping can be difficult, I believe community can benefit significantly from logic modelling through evaluation capacity building (and on going support). Especially during the early stages of program development.
I am officially inspired by what I have learnt so far and very excited to learn more. Evaluation has become one of the most rewarding aspects of my work with community and I believe it can be used to engage and really empower communities. I am interested in hearing what others feel about this?
Lastly I will finish in saying thank you to my mentor, Timoci O'Connor from the Centre for Program Evaluation (CPE) who has gone out of his way to make evaluation accessible to me as a non-evaluator, and thank you to the Australasian Evaluation Society (AES) for inviting me to their conference in Darwin last year where I had the opportunity to expand evaluation networks and knowledge. You support is much appreciated.
- Albie Colvin
Colour Them Safe