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Mat Schwarzman's Initial Documentation/ Evaluation // Assessment Studies
May 11, 2004

To: RFK in EKY Project Staff
Fr: Mat Schwarzman
Re: Project Documentation Plan

Greetings! First off, you all are amazing! Thanks for involving me in this incredible project. Last Wednesday's meeting was great, and I'm glad to be able to participate.

Second, please consider me a documenter, rather than an evaluator. Certainly my work will contribute to your self-evaluation process, but it will not be an evaluation; instead, I think of it as 'strategic documentation' that will help you convey the impact of the project to others. When I come in September and begin talking directly with some of your community collaborators, it will also be much better to introduce me as someone who is chronicling rather than judging. 'Nuff said.

As I understand it, we have agreed to these major points:

  1. I will write a report that highlights some of the ways the RFK in EKY project builds both hope and capacity for social change within the community.
    1. John and I had a discussion about the length of the report, and said 5-10 pages might be a good range to start with. Five pages seem like a good minimum, and we'll see if 10 pages is enough.
  2. The #1 audience for the report is funders who support grassroots community development and social justice work.
    1. #2 audience: arts funders who have an interest in community development and social justice.
    2. #3 audience: humanities funders
  3. The main concept we are using is "civic engagement" (similar to "civic participation," "civic dialogue," etc.).
    1. 'Community self-reflection to build community power.'
    2. For more information and a "civic engagement survey" that may be useful to us, go to: www.ksg.harvard.edu/saguaro/communitysurvey/index.html
  4. While I plan to conduct some interviews and observations in September, my primary source of data will be YOU all.
    1. Sources for statistics, etc., about the current state of the community.
    2. Anecdotes about individuals and organizations involved in the project.
    3. A questionnaire or focus group discussions to show attitudinal shifts.
    4. Note: Video documentation, while it is definitely important to the project, may or may not be of primary importance to my piece.

More specifically, I propose the report contains these elements:

  1. Context : description of rampant hopelessness (drug abuse, unemployment, youth leaving the area, environmental damage, political ineptitude) in the community.
  2. Description of the project: I'll keep this relatively short. The most useful information here will be: (a) names and affiliations of participants, (b) number and types of activities.
  3. Overview of impact: some kind of compilation (Map? Numbers?) of the individuals and organizations impacted by the project, such as:
    1. Individuals who are more civically engaged (more involved in politics, civic organizations - see Robert Putnam Survey)
    2. Community-building organizations that gain new and/or increased 'social capital':

•  Resources: money, recognition, volunteers

•  Visibility: media coverage, awards

•  Effectiveness. Greater use of their services.

•  Partnerships: We discussed the re -connections that occur between groups long disconnected from one another: "When was the last time you saw each other?"

  1. Examples of impact: A more in-depth description and quotes from some (3-4) of the individuals and organizations most visibly affected.

•  We discussed the Head Start Program as a likely example.

  1. Conclusion : future plans for the project, what the project suggests for future similar efforts.

Sources of Data:

  • Personal Logs (optional): A notebook, clipboard, pad, etc. with VERY brief (2 or 3 sentences at most) entries about individuals and organizations who report and/or demonstrate impact. The main purpose of these entries will be to jog your memories at the weekly check-ins, so details are not so important.
  • Weekly F2F Check-ins : We did not discuss this, but I suggest that you all discuss and document impact as a regular part of your Wednesday meetings . I think this will be an important reinforcement, and an opportunity to compare and contrast your perceptions. PLUS, it will give you a chance to proactively support civic engagement as you see it taking place.
    • Note: The most important notes I can receive from these discussions will be a compilation of your observations regarding specific cases.
  • Monthly Phone Check-ins : I suggest we meet next on June 9 th .
  • Questionnaire/Focus Groups : We talked about this only briefly. Let's talk more about it in June.
  • Interviews/Observations : I will do these in September. By that time, you all should have identified for me a short list of individuals and organizations to focus on.

Well, that's all for now. Please feel free to reply with concerns, questions and ideas; and once again, thanks for involving me.


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