Evaluating a Leadership Development Initiative Among Six Communities of Color: Building the Evidence Base of Culturally-Specific Programming
Research questions were:
- What evaluation practices will best articulate the gains and challenges in this initiative?
- What features of the design process are instrumental in the initiative’s success, and limit its ability to achieve the three goals?
- What dimensions of the program are valued most by participants?
- What outcomes and impacts are manifest?
Methods: Following a literature review, the evaluator collaborated with the Coalition to determine the evaluation framework, including:
- Customized survey of leadership capacities, cohort outcomes, advocacy outcomes and community impacts
- Pre- and post-surveys of participant (N=130)
- Pre-, intermediate and post-survey and interviews with project leaders
- Focus groups with stakeholders
Participants included Native Americans (from 18 Tribes), Africans (8 countries), Asian and Pacific Islanders (13 countries), Latinos (5 countries), refugees from Slavic countries (4 represented), and African Americans.
Research methods are informed by community-based participatory research and emphasize role differentiation (Nicolaidis et al, 2011), facilitating factors (Israel, Schulz, Parker & Becker, 1998) and pathways to equalize power (Curry-Stevens, 2010; Northmore & Hart, 2011). Qualitative data was analyzed using iterative, constant comparison, line-by-line analysis (Corbin & Strauss, 1990). Member checking was conducted at every major decision point. Quantitative survey data was analyzed through means and standard deviations of responses. Images created pre- and post-intervention captures a programmatic “footprint” that communicates strengths, challenges, gains and impacts on numerous axes in a single image.
Results: Findings confirm the importance of culturally-specific programs to promote inclusion, and affirmation of the identities of participants. Challenges were to manifest systems change efforts. For some communities, the importance of cohort community building, overcoming legacies of distrust and internalized oppression, and establishing an affirming culture took time. The findings also affirm the importance of community-validated evaluation practices.
Conclusions and Implications: Social workers invested in leadership within communities of color are advised to consider culturally-specific models. Balancing cohort needs, as well as participant and community outcomes is difficult but critical for building the capacity of communities of color to provide leadership in eradicating racism and racial disparities. These findings are relevant for social work education.