What Does Evaluating 100% New Mexico Mean?
Independent evaluation experts are asking, “What’s meaningful, measurable, and worth watching closely?”
We asked the evaluation team for Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to share their insights on the ongoing evaluation of the 100% New Mexico initiative.
Question: What role does evaluation have in the 100% New Mexico initiative?
Chapin Hall: Evaluation is critical not only to “getting to outcomes,” but in the ability to use information from 100% Community members to learn and grow as a collective team. This means researchers, action teams, community leads, and the Anna, Age Eight Institute working together. We will be documenting progress and outcomes as the work evolves.
Question: What does evaluation tell us about the successes and challenges working to identify and remove barriers to ten vital services?
Chapin Hall: Every community is different in its people, assets, who needs to be brought in, and who is already engaged in this collaborative work towards increasing access to the ten vital services. Communities are also different in their service gaps that we have identified in their community-wide surveys. For these reasons, the flexibility that is afforded by the 100% Community model, a model with clear core components and a suite of tools, has been a real asset to communities who adopt it.
Question: How does the evaluation team gather information and insights from local 100% county initiatives?
Chapin Hall: We very much like to be on the ground, so to speak, which has been a little more challenging during COVID-19, but the New Mexico community has been very welcoming to talking with us. In our first year evaluating 100% Community, we conducted a pilot study in Doña Ana County where we conducted focus groups and interviews with Resilience Leaders, who are 100% participants. In year two, we surveyed action team members and leaders across seven other communities, and also conducted interviews and focus groups. This was at the height of COVID-19, so we focused part of our evaluation on how communities adapted 100% Community to the challenges brought up in the crisis. We found that the ten vital services resonated very well with the services that were needed in the pandemic, and people we talked with stressed this very clearly. Our evaluations also focus on how Action Teams are implementing the seven model steps and collective impact, and the assistance they may need from the Institute to make progress. We’ve been impressed with what can be done with most of this being accomplished through volunteers, but that won’t be able to be sustained.
Question: How can local initiatives use the survey results to guide and strengthen their collaborative county-focused work to ensure access to the ten vital services for surviving and thriving?
Chapin Hall: The survey results offer vital cross-sector insights (and surprises) into the various barriers that community residents and families confront in accessing services. Using survey results helps anchor the collaborative, county-focused work in residents’ experiences, priorities, and needs, especially as those have rapidly evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession. As one illustration, seeing gaps in food and transportation access can help generate a set of solutions that embed transportation into conversations about more cohesive strategies for reducing and preventing food insecurity.
Question: What are the biggest lessons thus far from the evaluation process and what should change agents be watching closely?
Chapin Hall: There is no universal roadmap to ensuring access to vital services. We have seen that the evaluation process has helped drive conversations at the Anna, Age Eight Institute about the role each county’s unique assets, values, and history can play in accelerating each local initiatives’ collaborative work. Acting on evaluation recommendations, the Anna, Age Eight Institute now explicitly supports professional development around adaptive leadership as part of the technical assistance suite, for example. The importance of prioritizing dedicated staff capacity, notably in the areas of communication and project management, is another key takeaway. We believe change agents should also be watching how local initiatives leverage continuous improvement strategies to guide their progress. Data-driven solutions that are culturally and community competent will be key to achieving the goals of the 100% New Mexico initiative.