It is imperative that community engagement groups understand, measure, and communicate their performance and impact. When we don’t measure and communicate our impact we limit our ability to secure the resources needed to continue. Most importantly, we don’t know whether neighbors are satisfied with our efforts and which engagement tactics work best.
Yet there are challenges to measuring the impact of community engagement. Limited research exists on how engagement leads to improved outcomes for marginalized communities. While there are many stories of successful organizing campaigns, there are not many studies on the links between empowered neighbors, institutional decision-making, and long-term community outcomes.
In the Community Voice model, “winning” on a particular issue is an indicator of success, but we go deeper, looking at how our process increases neighbors’ capability to realize their vision for their community. Virginia Community Voice also seeks to change how institutions engage marginalized communities. We look at equitable decision-making among people and groups with power as an indicator of success. Finally, we understand success in terms of whether community-level outcomes improve.
In the Reflect stage, we describe our approach to measurement and evaluation, and provide suggestions for how community engagement groups can reflect on progress regularly, course correct, and simultaneously measure performance and impact.