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Vibrant Communities Canada Evaluating Vibrant Communities (2002-2010)

SunflowersSince 2002, Vibrant Communities members and national sponsors have been committed to a rigorous approach to learning about and evaluating the progress made in poverty reduction efforts across Canada. Evaluating Vibrant Communities 2002-2010 summarizes the collective results achieved by 13 cross-sector community roundtables focused on poverty.

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Evaluating Vibrant Communities 2002-2010

The Vibrant Communities (2002 - 2010) Evaluation Report contains the findings of a nine-year experiment that demonstrates the positive impacts of an innovative and collaborative approach to fighting poverty that is driving individual benefits, neighborhood changes and large scale community poverty reductions.

Since 2002, a wide range of partners have formed leadership tables in more than a dozen communities across Canada, giving new momentum to the work of poverty reduction. More than a hope or a dream, they have made it a living, breathing reality. Joined by the Vibrant Communities initiative, citizens of all income levels, community workers, representatives from all levels of government and business people are clarifying needs, identifying community assets and developing tangible strategies for tackling poverty.

The Vibrant Communities approach emphasizes collaboration and consensus building across sectors; comprehensive thinking and action; building community assets; and a commitment to long-term learning and change. It is a self-fuelling change model where progress creates greater capacity, leading to new programs and more systematic interventions. The end result is improved lives and less people living in poverty.

Together, Vibrant Communities Partners have:
Launched 164 poverty reduction initiatives
Reduced poverty for more than 170,000 households in Canada
Raised $19.5 million, most of it in local communities
Engaged 1,690 organizations as partners including more than 500 businesses
Mobilized 1,080 individuals as partners, including 573 people living in poverty
Drove 35 substantive government policy changes

The Vibrant Communities (2002 - 2010) Evaluation Report, highlights key results and offers deeper understanding of the critical success factors, effectiveness and patterns identified through the Vibrant Communities experiment – learning that can be the template to inspire new ideas and strategies in communities across Canada. Vibrant Communities has become, and hopefully will continue to be, one of Canada's best poverty reduction strategies.  Access the full report here or the evaluation summary here.

The VC Approach to Evaluation

Comprehensive community change efforts are not easy to evaluate. The Aspen Institute’s Roundtable on Community Change has reviewed dozens of examples over twenty years and has concluded that the breadth, scale and complexity of the efforts means traditional forms of evaluation are inadequate.

The Vibrant Communities network is experimenting with a new approach: developmental evaluation. At the local level, this means reflecting on the theory of change underlying a group’s work and upgrading it as required to better achieved desired outcomes, respond to a changing environment, and capture the emerging insights and questions of participants. At the national level, it is about mining the on-the-ground experience of communities for patterns and themes that help us understand the value of this approach to reducing poverty. So far, the experiment has been successful. In his latest book on Developmental Evaluation, Michael Quinn Patton, a leading evaluation expert, commented on VC’s contribution to the emerging field of developmental evaluation: "Community-based developmental evaluation is hard to do and do well. Tamarack’s work with Vibrant Communities is the best I’ve seen." (Patton, Michael 2010. Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use, Page 232)

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Mid Term Evaluation

In 2006, the participants of Vibrant Communities slowed down to "take stock" of what had been accomplished and learned over the first years of the initiative and to determine the implication for a possible next phase of the evaluation. The lessons were captured in a series of inter-related papers:

A more comprehensive summary of the initiative can be found in Creating Vibrant Communities, a book written to celebrate and document the theory and practice of Vibrant Communities. Learn more about Creating Vibrant Communities here.

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Vibrant Communities by the Numbers

The Vibrant Communities Trail Builders regularly share their outcomes and learnings with national sponsors and their peer communities. Every six months, they provide an update on key statistics related to their local work; annually they also provide a report that explores their progress, challenges and learning in more depth.

To understand the approach to collecting statistical data from community partners, access Basic Outcome Tracking in Vibrant Communities here.

Statistical results are summarized every June and December in a report titled VC by the Numbers. The most recent statistics are available here.

To learn about the background of collecting the VC by the Numbers reports, access the Frequently Asked Questions resource here.

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Media Materials

Vibrant Communities Canada hosted a media conference with the launch of Evaluating Vibrant Communities: 2002-2010.  Here are links to the media materials distributed on September 30, 2010.

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Links & Resources

Evaluating Vibrant Communities: 2002-2010 - This book summarizes results from the first phase of the evaluation of Vibrant Communities. Access it here.

Evaluating Vibrant Communities: 2002-2010 Summary - Access the executive summary in English here, and French here

Evaluating Impact - Vibrant Communities (2002-2010) Seminar - In this seminar Jamie Gamble, Eric Leviten-Reid and Mark Cabaj discuss the efforts of nine years of research that yields important insights about the ingenuity of communities. Access the seminar here.

Vibrant Communities Asset Outcomes by Community and Project – This table summarizes the individual and household outcomes achieved by each project and community, using the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework. Access the table here.

Vibrant Communities Policy and Systems Change Summary – This table summarizes changes in public policies, service and support systems, material resources, and community-level assets that supported poverty reduction efforts. Access the table here.

Summary of 2009-2011 Evaluation Effort - This handout explains the scope and timing of the evaluation of Vibrant Communities. Access the handout here.

Learning and Evaluation for Vibrant Communities Trail Builders - This is the evaluation package used by local communities participating in Vibrant Communities. Access the package in English here and French here.

Developmental Evaluation Primer - The primer, prepared by Jamie Gamble, describes an alternative to formative and summative evaluation. Access the primer here.

Developmental Evaluation 201: A Practitioners Guide - This guide was prepared by evaluators and program administrators of the Youthscape Initiative in 2008.  Access it here.

Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use - the first and only book on developmental evaluation. Purchase it at Amazon.ca here.

Developmental Evaluation - In this 2010 Tamarack online audio seminar, Michael Quinn Patton is interviewed about his book on developmental evaluation. Access the seminar here.

Measuring Learning: Developmental Evaluation - In this 2007 Tamarack online audio seminar, Michael introduces Developmental Evaluation. Access the seminar here.

Strategic Dialogue on Poverty - The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and the Tamarack Institute hosted a strategic dialogue about place-based poverty reduction efforts in Canada. Forty-six business, government, philanthropic, academic and community sector leaders reviewed the strengths and challenges of working collaboratively to tackle poverty in Canada and the United States. Access the web page about the event here.

Comprehensive Community Initiatives: Lessons Learned, Potential and Opportunities Moving Forward - The Wellesley Institute was commissioned to provide an overview of place-based approaches to poverty reduction in Canada. This paper describes the approach, trends, enablers, and impact. The paper also poses questions about next steps. Access the paper here and the presentation here.

Community Change Initiatives from 1990 - 2010: Accomplishments and Implications for Future Work - Published in Community Investments Spring 2010, this paper by the Aspen Institute, Roundtable on Community Change outlines the results from over two decades of investment in community change efforts in the United States. Access the paper here and the presentation by Anne Kubisch of The Aspen Institute here.

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VC Evaluation

"A concise and powerful summary of VC’s decade of good deeds. A powerful legacy indeed."

~ James Hughes, Deputy Minister, Department of Social Development New Brunswick

"Vibrant Communities has successfully demonstrated how important it is for municipal, provincial and federal governments along with community groups to work together, to coordinate their strategies, resources and actions, to reduce poverty.

FCM thanks the communities involved as well as the projects sponsors and partners for what has been an invaluable effort to improve how all involved in poverty reduction align resources and achieve the outcomes that citizens expect and deserve."

~ Brock Carlton, Chief Executive Officer
Federation of Canadian Municipalities

"The VC evaluation will make an important contribution to the growing knowledge and evidence base of the factors that contribute to the effectiveness of local community initiatives.

It does provide an interesting study of how communities have adapted the change model, which is nicely described in the chart in the report, to reflect their local strengths/assets, objectives and capacity to mobilize and engage partners."

~ Susan Scotti, Consultant – Champion of the Communities Agenda, Former Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

More reviews here!





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