Evaluating Impact

Over the last twenty years people interested in building strong communities have been making an important shift. Eager to “move the needle” on our quality of life issues, they are experimenting with new ways to create mutually reinforcing community-wide strategies that yield big changes as opposed to hoping that the individual efforts of organizations and services end up being more than the sum of their parts.  This new approach to community change requires a different way to evaluate.

Conventional evaluation techniques typically focus on discrete programs and services and are carried out by external experts.  Evaluation practices from the private sector are narrowly concerned with “operational” and “return on investment” of their organization rather than the perspective of outcomes for the entire community. Neither is suitable for the scale and complexity of community impact. Both have a tendency to approach evaluation as a mechanical exercise in accountability rather than a process of community learning. After many iterations of trying to “do the old stuff on steroids”, the field of change-makers is self-correcting. We are experimenting with new ways of measuring change, exploring who is responsible for outcomes, developing methods that can keep up with the fast-moving pace of community change activities, alternative approaches for getting change makers involved in the actual assessment process, and using the results to drive new thinking, better strategies and deeper impact.


Evaluating Community Impact

Featured Resources

Getting Started

Evaluations That People Use

Developing Evaluations that Are Used

By Tamarack Institute

Evaluation findings, if used at all, are usually one piece of the decision making pie, not the whole pie. Rhetoric about "data-based decision making" and "evidence-based practice" can give the impression that one simply looks at evaluation results and a straightforward decision follows. Erase that image from your mind. That is seldom, if ever, the case.


Evaluating Collective Impact: Five Simple Rules

By Mark Cabaj

Since the 1960s, the field of evaluation has struggled to develop concepts and methods that are useful for the complex work of community change. The ambitious nature of the latest iteration of community change approaches, Collective Impact, amplifies this challenge. This article describes five simple rules that have emerged out of 50 years of trial and error that can assist participants, funders, and evaluators of Collective Impact initiatives to track their progress and make sense of their efforts. 

Taking It Further

Creative work of business team.jpeg

Network Mapping: At A Glance

By Robyn Kalda, Peggy Schultz, Suzanne Schwenger & Health Nexus

This tool will help groups look at how they are working together now, and how they might work together even more effectively to reach their specified goals.  This tool will help you to visualize and explore relationships within your group so that you are able to identify potential relationships, and strengthen your existing group. 

Most Significant Change

Most Significant Change

By Tamarack Institute

This tool will help guide you through the Most Significant Change process.  This technique is a form of participatory monitoring and evaluation. It is participatory because many project stakeholders are involved both in deciding the sorts of change to be recorded and in analyzing the data. It is a form of monitoring because it occurs throughout the program cycle and provides information to help people manage the program.

Communities of Practice

double exposure of businessman hand working with blank net work diagram as digital cloud concept.jpeg

Evaluating Community Impact Community of Practice

The aim of this Evaluation Community of Practice (CoP) is to bring together committed evaluation practitioners who want to connect, share, learn about, and hone their evaluation approaches and tools.




Impact.jpgMeasuring Poverty Reduction Community of Practice

This Community of Pracitce is for individuals who want to dig deeper into evaluation-related strategies, techniques and tools that they can apply to their own poverty reduction efforts.



Join Us (1).png

Learn about Tamarack's upcoming learning calendar

Interested in expanding your knowledge and capacity to tackle the community issues you're facing? Tamarack hosts a number of in-person workshops as well as free online webinars and communities of practice to help you meet this challenge.

Explore upcoming opportunities