October 15, 2015 – SAN DIEGO – The evidence is now clear. When it comes to improving the wellbeing of people and communities, place matters. That is why foundations, nonprofits, and their public and private partners have worked together on hundreds of place-based initiatives across the country in recent years. This work has had successes and challenges, and is highly dynamic.
The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions, and the Neighborhood Funders Group hosted “The Art & Science of Place-Based Evaluation,” a national convening on effective practices and new approaches for evaluating place-based initiatives. This convening took place in San Diego on October 5 and 6 at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation and the Hard Rock Hotel.
Participants at this convening were encouraged to attend as “triads” made up of the funder, evaluator, and community leader (nonprofit or resident) so that each could bring a different, valuable perspective on how evaluation can support positive change in a place. Attendees shared their expertise and learned from one another in a series of workshops organized by the key development stages of a place-based initiative: Early, Implementation, and Sustaining Momentum.
Michael McAfee, Vice President of Programs for PolicyLink, opened the convening with a rousing speech on the importance of not only doing place-based work, but also holding stakeholders accountable for their contributions
During workshops, attendees dove deeply into questions like “How can place-based work be advanced?” and “How can tools of evaluation and learning be used to improve these important initiatives?” Together attendees pinpointed vital next steps in place-based work and how it is evaluated. Among those steps are actually implementing the lessons learned through evaluation, not just filing it away to gather dust, engaging all members of a triad early on to communicate with community members, and using data to prioritize the needs of a community.
“The Jacobs Center and many other place-based philanthropies across the country have worked for decades and invested millions of dollars towards improving communities, but have yet to truly create change that can be sustained when philanthropy is no longer at the table. The purpose of this convening was to be a reality check for the field and for everyone involved to commit to dedicating the time to evaluating our work in order to have a real impact” said Reginald Jones, President and CEO of the Jacobs Center.
This convening built on two prior events hosted by The Aspen Institute, “Towards a Better Place,” and the University of Southern California, “Prioritizing Place,” to provide a deeper, targeted discussion about how to use evaluation to improve the understanding of place to accelerate change.
The results of the convening will be posted on a central online portal to ensure an ongoing dialogue for continued learning on place-based evaluation’s role in effecting positive change.
More information on the Art & Science of Place-Based Evaluation convening can be found at www.jacobscenter.org/placebased.