Lorna McCue, Executive Director, Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC)
The Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, a member organization of HC Link, recently sent three OHCC Board members and the Executive Director to a workshop on Developmental Evaluation (DE), provided by Innoweave, to learn more about this approach and its suitability for their Healthy Food Program.
This workshop was facilitated by Jamie Gamble of Imprint Consulting, who has designed and delivered consulting projects in evaluation, strategy, and organizational change over the past decade. He has written a Developmental Evaluation Primer for this series of workshops.
The workshop was designed for teams of 3-4 leaders of an organization to learn together about developmental evaluation and work together to develop a plan to undertake a developmental evaluation for a specific program.
Prior to attending the workshop, participants were invited to view a pre-recorded webinar online, and were given a link to view or download the slides.
Developmental Evaluation is an evaluation approach that supports innovation by providing close to real time feedback on activities, which facilitates continuous development. It is particularly useful in guiding adaptation within complex environments, and is a useful approach to evaluating Collective Impact initiatives. The evaluation methods and tools aren’t necessarily different than those used in a more traditional evaluation, but how they are used is quite different. The evaluation activities are undertaken in a more flexible, team-oriented, user-friendly way, and are geared to on-going learning and development. Data is collected more frequently, the process of interpretation and generating recommendations is timely, new issues are explored as they are identified, and the program design and the evaluation measure may be altered during the evaluation time frame.
The OHCC team decided to plan for a DE of its Healthy Food program. Since 2003 OHCC has worked with partners to support the development of sustainable local food systems and increase community food security within Ontario communities. Recent planning sessions have led to the alignment of OHCC’s food-related resources and activities under one Healthy Food program. The goal of this program is to engage communities in assessing and developing their local food system and build capacity for local solutions to hunger, including emergency services, capacity building programs, access to land and facilities for gardening and food re-distribution and system change initiatives. Our current work in this area includes providing consultation and learning activities through HC Link, to build the capacity of community food programs, and supporting FoodNet Ontario, a provincial network of individuals and organizations working towards sustainable local food systems and community food security.
During this workshop, the OHCC team focussed on exploring the scope of the evaluation process, the risks entailed in undertaking a DE instead of a more traditional evaluation approach and the evaluation methods that would be appropriate for this program. All team members agreed that DE was a good fit for this program, but that further work was needed in program design before a DE could be undertaken. They also expressed their appreciation for the training they received in DE and may have opportunities to apply the concepts to other programs in which they are involved.