Blog Posts for Social Change

How Art Can Strengthen Evaluation

Posted by Renan Snowden, May 04, 2012 2 comments

Renan Snowden

Let’s be honest: sometimes evaluation can feel like taking medicine. What's more, the results of evaluation often take the form of dry reports that are unwelcoming and, at worst, hard to penetrate. But evaluation doesn’t have to be this way.

Evaluation can be a useful and engaging process that incorporates creativity and participation to help an organization learn how it can more effectively reach its goals. Evaluation presents an opportunity for arts organizations to demonstrate the impact they are making in their communities. Incorporating artistic practice and a combination of narrative documentation and compelling graphics can make evaluation interesting and build off of an arts organization’s existing skill set.

Artists and arts organizations have an advantage with evaluation: you want it to be a creative process. Right now, some arts organizations are taking the lead in including drawing, storytelling, and graphic design as part of their evaluation process and reporting.

By making evaluation a creative and dynamic process, these organizations are helping make assessment more attractive to practitioners by showing that evaluation can build off the work your organization already has expertise in.

As a graduate student in urban planning, I’m interested in ways that the arts can help create shared spaces for community development. Writing short summaries of the in-depth resources available on the Animating Democracy website as the spring IMPACT intern, I began to notice that some of the best case studies of measuring the impact of social change incorporated the arts as part of the evaluation process. These innovative approaches to evaluation are facilitating new ways of evaluation that emphasize experience and engagement as key components of evaluation.

Read More
TAGGED WITH:

Visionaries in Evaluation: Beyond Samples & Quantitative Data

Posted by Marc Maxson, May 04, 2012 1 comment

Jim Henson and his fellow Muppeteers perform as Bert & Ernie.

In my first post, I explained why we mustn’t let our fears prevent us from experimenting with evaluations that are neither purely quantitative nor based on random samples when trying to understand whether our social interventions are working.

Now, I want to share examples from visionaries who practice what I preach. The people you should know are Jim Henson, VI Hart, David McCandless, and Jonathon Harris.

Evaluations are a search for the truth about whether our work has changed lives. And I believe good evaluations are conceptually simple.

When Jim Henson was developing the design for Sesame Street, child psychologists and early education experts insisted that they knew the right way to do the show. Jim only cared about measuring whether each segment of video was good, and that kids were watching. You can’t teach kids anything if they aren’t paying attention, he argued.

His greatest innovation was a simple method to quantify whether kids were paying attention at each point during a test episode. They brought some five-year-olds into a play room and showed them visuals on two televisions simultaneously. One played an episode of Sesame Street, while the other played a random series of interesting images for seven seconds each ("the distractor").

Read More
TAGGED WITH:

Making a Difference Online and Off

Posted by Marc Vogl, May 04, 2012 0 comments

Marc Vogl

There are several particularly interesting things about The Awesome Foundation.

First, it’s not a Foundation. It’s 30+ self-organized chapters around the world of individuals kicking in $100/month to get behind ideas they think are cool.

Second, the grants that Awesome Foundation recipients get are $1000.

And for all the variety to be found in the funded  projects a common denominator is that $1000 made a difference.  In other words, a principle of the Awesome Foundation’s philanthropy (as decentralized and informal as it is) is that proposals are ‘right-sized’ if they can make the case that $1000 will tip the project into being successful.

As a former arts program officer at a major foundation I think that’s beautiful and also a simple concept to hang on to as one contemplates increasingly complex (and confusing) methodologies for understanding the impact the arts make.

The topic is definitely hot, and there has been really interesting work from those seeking to measure arts’ intrinsic impact  This includes the work from Theatre Bay Area  and others adding to the catalog of studies on arts’ instrumental impact.

Read More
TAGGED WITH:

Arts: The Mother of Invention (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Janet Langsam, May 03, 2012 1 comment

Janet Langsam

Every morning, I turn on the treadmill, tune into the Today Show and run until I bank 150 calories to earn a glass of Chardonnay at the end of the day.

Matt Lauer and the NBC crew are usually just eye candy and background chatter, but [April 25] they hit a nerve talking about college degrees that may be “useless” like “fine arts, drama, philosophy, religious studies,” when it comes to getting a job. Lauer quoted a recent poll that said that one out of two recent college grads are either unemployed or underemployed.

Donny Deutsch, one of the Today panelists said, “I never looked at a (college) major in my life in hiring people.”

And a good thing too since the National Arts Index published by the advocacy organization Americans for the Arts, indicates that interest in the arts as a college major is growing. It says that from 1996–2010 more than 1.5 million degrees were awarded in visual and performing arts, with annual graduations growing steadily from 75,000 to 129,000—an increase of 73 percent.

Could all these college bound kids be wasting their time?

Read More

'Beertown' — Making a Show That Builds Community

Posted by Rachel Grossman, May 03, 2012 0 comments

The official "Beertown" time capsule.

In September 2010, dog & pony dc (d&pdc) began developing a new show starting with nothing but two books and a question. Our goal was to create an original work as a collective from start to finish; the only thing we knew about the end product was that it would be fully produced 14 months later. Well: we also knew that in this production we wanted to push the boundaries of “audience integration.”

d&pdc is an ensemble-based devised theatre company that creates new ways for audiences to experience theatre. We carry a self-described “healthy obsession” with defining the performer-audience relationship for each show.

“Audience integration” is a foundation of d&pdc’s devising process; the audience’s role in performance is discussed from each project’s birth to its fully-realized production. The approach is highly elastic. On one end of the spectrum: the role of the audience is as witness. At the opposite end: the event doesn't move forward without audience propulsion.

In 2010, we wanted to explore the more risky end. We wanted to create a show in which the audience members were active, vocal participants who ultimately determined the outcome every night. To do that, the audience had to feel compelled to act; they had to become invested and take ownership. In other words: they had to care.

What makes us care? “A crisis” was our initial answer.

Read More

The Arts, Culture, & Social Well-Being

Posted by Mark Stern, May 03, 2012 0 comments

Mark Stern

Mark Stern

As part of its collaboration with The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) and the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy (OACCE), Penn’s Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) is leading an effort to develop an index of livability/social inclusion for the city.

Our goal is to create a series of maps that identify several dimensions of social well-being across the city and to locate the arts and culture within the broader idea of social well-being. This semester, Ira Goldstein of TRF and I have co-taught an Urban Studies seminar focused of clarifying the conceptualization of social well-being and gathering the data necessary to create the index.

The project was inspired by the federal government’s—including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)—recent interest in promoting livability. As we looked at the question, we realized that our measure needed to move beyond livability to include more comprehensive measures of social justice, inclusion, and well-being. Rather than start from scratch, we used the 2009 report of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress as our starting point.

The commission proposed an eight-dimension framework for social well-being that included material standard of living, health, education, personal activities (including work and leisure), political voice and governance, social connections and relationships, environment, and economic and physical insecurity. Our first adaptation of the framework was to add housing as a separate dimension, giving us nine potential sub-indexes.

During the seminar, Ira, the students, and I have been able to develop preliminary version of seven of the nine indexes. Some of them were easier than others.

Read More

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Social Change