An evaluation of a civic engagement and advocacy effort in Oregon offered an opportunity to incorporate both retrospective and prospective approaches and new advocacy evaluation tools.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation supported an evaluation of civic engagement efforts by the Chalkboard Project (Chalkboard), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Portland that works to make Oregon schools among the best in the nation.
Chalkboard engaged a Seattle-based evaluation team to design and conduct the evaluation. The opportunity to try something new emerged during early discussions. In addition to retrospective inquiry, prospective evaluation was incorporated. Prospective evaluation, or evaluation that assesses and informs ongoing work in real time, has emerged as a useful approach for advocacy and policy change efforts.
The retrospective focus was on Chalkboard’s civic engagement work during two prior legislative sessions where Oregon’s biennial budget was determined, while the prospective focus was on informing future strategy and decision making. Prospective data collection gathered internal and external perceptions of Chalkboard’s current work, accomplishments, and opportunities, as well as Chalkboard’s structure and approach.
This brief describes the evaluation, synthesizes evaluator observations, and serves as a case example of how evaluation can support strategic learning among advocates.