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Featured Catalyst Awards Proposal: Developing metrics for evaluating the impact of public process

NCDD’s Catalyst Awards process is in full swing, with 19 projects posted so far up at ncdd.civicevolution.org. Feel free to ask questions, share your reactions, and offer support here as well as at CivicEvolution!

Developing metrics for evaluating the impact of public process

Proposed by: Michael O’Neill
Project home: http://ncdd.civicevolution.org/proposal/10103

Q. Michael – please tell us a little about yourself.

About two years ago I had lost my job. Instead of struggling to find work in a county with 12% unemployment and few jobs that are actual careers, I went to The Evergreen State College to complete my BA. Wanting to apply my studies in community development and communication to the challenges in the place where I live, I worked with the Health Department and a local non-profit to hold a forum on community collaboration towards health.

Less than a month after graduation I went back to the Health Department to report on the results of the forum and they recruited me to create their Community Health Improvement. I have been interested in dialog and deliberation for several years now. This amazing journey to becoming a practitioner and the opportunity to make an impact in the place where I live is a dream come true.

Q. What project are you proposing, in a nutshell?

Community engagement around the issue of health has been done in my county before. The process I have developed using the collective impact model is exciting community partners and viewed as having great potential to succeed in increasing collaboration. But even if it is successful, there is no framework for evaluation that can tell us why.

My catalyst project will develop and test an evaluation framework for civic engagement processes. The model will start specific to my own work and be generalized to multiple applications with the help of researchers and others doing civic engagement work. The goal of this project is to build an evaluation tool that will advance the field of dialog and deliberation with the ability to establish best practices.

Q. Can you provide any background info that might help people understand what you’re proposing?

The field of public health has been well served by decades of peer reviewed. This ongoing process of evaluation and development has led to identifiable best practices that create desired outcomes. Frameworks for evaluation are a key element that has made this possible.

In public health the ability to research the effectiveness of different programs makes it clear which are likely to provide reliable results. In dialog and deliberation we are rich in many processes that have been effective, but we have no way to measure if that success will be repeatable. A framework for evaluation is an important tool for developing this field.

Q. Is there anything you’d like NCDD members’ help with or involvement on in particular?

I am very interested in working with researchers in the D&D field to understand how evaluation has been conducted in the past. Others who are carrying out public engagement processes will also be important partners as we develop our evaluation framework. A wide sample of different projects and multiple researchers willing to use the same framework will create a solid foundation for the development of the field and could lead to a D&D Journal.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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