I posted earlier this week about the Hewlett Foundation's report and Seven Principles of Evaluation. (Check out comments to that post for another foundation report on evaluation, that one from the Gates Foundation)
Since then, I've had several conversations and given a few speeches to groups as diverse as GirlGeeks (here's a video of the speech) and community foundations, a local giving circle and within a single foundation board room. I'm also preparing for an upcoming Stanford #recodinggood charrette on Democracy and Philanthropy.
So participation is on my mind.
The headline of this post is a shorter version of something I say all the time. One thing we know about addressing community problems and making long term change is that those who will have to live with the solution have to be a part of putting it into place. Not just a part of defining the problem, but designing and implementing the solutions. Otherwise it is, at best, a band-aid.
Outside funders think they're being "inclusive" when they involve community members in meetings and brainstorms. Flip this on its head - communities can and should be inclusive about having funders and outside experts participate in their local efforts. Inclusivity cuts both ways and solutions need both insiders and outsiders.
The Declaration Initiative has a wonderfully clear statement about this on its website. More important, the approach is built into TDI's work. Here's how TDI talks about its evaluation principles:
"We have confirmed that if a project will affect a whole neighborhood or community, the participation of community members is key to developing strategies to address problems. Community residents must address questions about evaluating impact along with staff from nonprofits and government agencies, as well as donors.
A critical part of the process of ending poverty in the US must involve greatly expanding our notion of who must be engaged; what should be observed and measured; and how long the period of evaluation of long-term social change should last."And, as long as we're talking about inclusivity - here's a speech I gave on Data First Philanthropy in which (I hope) I make the case that such a shift is about much more than data, it's about inclusivity of ideas and people. Such shifts can start with data - imagine if program evaluators shared their data on Figshare so others could access it, think about it, and inform the analysis?