Evaluating Community Organizing

Published: March 2010

Type: Publication

This brief offers a vision for community organizing evaluation that is grounded in a set of principles based on direct experience with organizers. 

CatherineCrystalFoster
JustinLouie

Community organizing has gained visibility as a vibrant and potent force for social change. While it shares many characteristics with policy advocacy, it differs in significant ways and the approaches to evaluating the two also differ.

This brief builds on close work with seasoned and emerging community organizers on a range of evaluation projects, covering multiple issue areas. The authors provided technical assistance and tools to organizers, and helped systematize existing assessment processes. They learned from organizers and refined their thinking and processes accordingly.

Their vision for community organizing evaluation is grounded in a set of principles that have emerged from experiences with organizers, as well as the collective wisdom of others working in this field. Evaluation of community organizing should be:

  • Participatory, rather than purely third-party
  • Prospective (contemporaneous and forward-looking), rather than retrospective
  • Learning-based, rather than part of a pass-or-fail mentality
  • Real-time, rather than delayed and academic
  • Respectful of the culture of organizing
  • Attentive to leadership development as well as policy wins
  • Focused more on evidence than proof.

This brief includes an examination of the similarities and differences between advocacy and organizing—differences that shape how the approach to evaluation of organizing differs from evaluation of advocacy. It also provides a framework for evaluating organizing, and shares some of the lessons learned during implementation.