Program and Project Evaluation

Data gathering methods

Once you have decided on an objective, you need to decide how you will gather the data. You could gather data through:

  • Story sharing
  • Journals
  • Staff reports (at the end of each shift)
  • Photographs
  • Tracking attendance
  • Tracking amount of work created
  • Survey
  • Entry, midway and exit interviews with participants
  • Post-program meetings
  • Tracking repeat participants

Create templates and gather tracking tools

Once you have decided how you will track your objective, create a tracking template. If you use storytelling to measure success, get a recorder, choose your leading questions, and decide if you are going to set a time limit to the stories. Are they written or spoken? The more preparation you do for this, the better. Create a tracking system early, because after the project starts, it’s easy to forget about tracking, and it’s difficult to develop and introduce an extra task.

If you are doing a survey, choose your questions and rating systems and decide on a timeline. Create your attendance sheets, buy participant journals, and create interview questions.

During the project, schedule time when participants will fill out surveys. If you are only tracking attendance, make sure it is taken at the end of each session and put in a place where it’s easy to find. Perhaps you can get a volunteer to enter the attendance into a spreadsheet at the end of each session. Take lots of pictures of the workshops as they happen – this is great material for future grant applications.

Once the program is complete, go through the information. What does it tell you? Did you meet your objective? Are there any clues in the data that can help you know why it worked or didn’t work? Try your best to make the data easy to grasp. Calculate total numbers, average attendance, amount of work made. Figures have substance. Once you have the data, you can create a report about the project. If you choose to grow the project, you can refine the objectives and start the process again. Or you’ll choose to end the project.

  • Do it again, fine-tuning the objectives. OR
  • Call it a success and end the project.

Notes from the Field

When projects don’t work as planned

How do you pick yourself up from a failed project – maybe over and over again?

Go in prepared for anything, and prepared to work. Not every community is ready for an art project. It may take years of laying down groundwork for a project to be successful. Set realistic objectives based on the reality of the situation. If you are working in a community that sees no value in art, get a passionate partner to help you, or a great cheerleader. Success for your project will be very different than in a community that wants and supports an art project. That doesn’t mean you should give up, or some com- munities shouldn’t get community art programs – but you need to be realistic about what that community thinks it needs.

In some cases, you may be better off trying your project in a community that has a desire to work on an arts project. You can run a trial project in a different community and see how it goes. Sometimes communities need to see what can happen before they value it.

Also, you are not alone. And this is not easy work. Nobody gets into this work because it is easy. People get into this work because they know and believe in the power of art to connect, transform and strengthen people and communities. You are brave to even be trying.

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