Implementation and Evaluation
Once you complete the CHANGE tool, you enter the fourth phase of the community change process – implementation. As the Community Action Plan takes shape, consider steps to maintain the momentum of your CHANGE activities. Your Community Action Plan has tight timelines associated with it, so begin to coordinate your resources to make sure your plans are completed. Track your progress, note key successes, and document obstacles to completing the Community Action Plan. This is the time to connect with partner organizations, reach out to stakeholders, and rally support for your work. The knowledge that you have unique data to support your efforts will be compelling.
As the Community Action Plan progresses, share the data and your accomplishments with the individuals and organizations that contributed their time and expertise. Although anonymity is important to protect the interests of those who participated, everyone will be interested in the community-wide data your team collected. What about a town hall meeting to share the results? Could you write a policy brief or one-pager? Perhaps you can add a section to the community e-newsletter? Brainstorm ways to share your success and maintain the energy of the CHANGE process. You may be pleasantly surprised at the number of people who can use your hard work to further their own initiatives.
Finally, applaud your achievements! Share your thoughts about the CHANGE process with your community team, other communities like yours, and partners. Be sure to document successes and lessons learned, identify resources your team needs, and plan for next year. Reflect on how things are working, the viability of the Community Action Plan, and methods to ensure that your activities have been completed according to the plan. Consider key evaluation questions to aid in this process.
Evaluation and Reassessment
The evaluation phase is the fifth phase of the community change process. Evaluation is important, and is woven into every aspect of the work you have done thus far.
Many communities have asked “now that I have completed the CHANGE tool, what is the expectation for how these data can be used?” Your dataset is a reflection of what is happening in your community, so the possibilities of how to utilize the information are endless.
Two critical components of the evaluation phase are:
- Defining the criteria for success.
- Establishing a way to measure impact.
Include these two components in the evaluation plan to ensure your team answers questions about its process and outcomes. Evaluation should be reflected throughout all the phases and not saved until the end.
In defining the criteria for success, consider what success looks like for your community. Look across all the data and think about what is reasonable in the time allocated with the resources available. Note obstacles to success, such as implementation of policy that is in direct opposition to the change you are trying to make. Each time you complete an assessment, it raises awareness of areas of the community that have greatest need. Assessment is a vehicle for change to occur. By simply going through this process, you create a greater knowledge base. Circle back continuously to share new information so it radiates out to other areas of the community with which you may not have had direct contact. Change in one sector can spill over into another with a positive impact. For example, the e-newsletter your team generates may report on policies implemented in the School Sector; it may be read by a Health Promotion Director in a work site who is able to capitalize on that information for successful implementation with his or her employees.
How will your team determine if success has been achieved? A strong evaluation involves asking questions, which may require you to revisit the sites and sectors from which you gathered the original data. For example, if a work site is in the initial stages of implementing a policy that supports annual wellness exams for employees at a reduced cost, the evaluation question could be: Have you seen an increase in the number of employees receiving annual exams since instituting this policy?
Be sure to evaluate your team’s progress. Progress takes many forms, starting with completing the CHANGE tool. Did you skip any action steps? Did you complete at least three sectors? Did you use multiple data-collection methods? How effective have you been in implementing your Community Action Plan? Are there any areas that went unaddressed? If so, why?
Remember that CHANGE is an annual process. As your assessment activities come to a close, think about how to reassess next year. What progress has been made against the objectives of your Community Action Plan? What obstacles posed a challenge to meeting your objectives? What steps can your community take to clear those hurdles and move forward? Assessment helps to pinpoint areas of interest for you. Going through the process enables change to occur whether your community team focuses on those areas or not. There may be successes in the two or more sectors you examined in one year; reassessment may necessitate adding more sectors so you have current, reliable data to modify your Community Action Plan. Reassessment also involves reviewing first-year CHANGE data and evaluating your community’s progress. How have the scores for each sector changed over time and why? What relationships should your community build to ensure continued success? Your team may have generated a list of needs and assets that were only partially addressed in the first year. How can you now further implement these strategies? This may also be an opportunity to expand the data-collection process. For example, if in the first year your community team utilized focus groups and walkability audits to gather data, add telephone surveys or windshield tours in the reassessment phase. This will expand your dataset and provide new examples of actionable strategies for your community.