Participatory evaluation is a process through which program or project participants take part in evaluating their own work. In the vein of participatory action research, participatory evaluation can be transformational when those with a stake in the project or program learn new skills and gain new insights on their work, helping them improve their programs, and facilitating assessment of their own learning. I have led participatory evaluation for the following organizations:
Soul Fire Farm
Soul Fire Farm is a family farm in Upstate New York committed to dismantling oppression in the food system. Farmers Leah Penniman and Jonah Vitale-Wolff have created this Certified Naturally Grown Farm; educational programs including a CSA program tailored to members of the region’s low-income community; the Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion program; and Soul Fire Farm Institute (SFFI), a new non-profit educational organization. As a board member of SFFI, I lead the participatory evaluation processes for Soul Fire Farm’s educational and food access programs, working with Soul Fire staff, board members, interns, and volunteers.
Groundwork Hudson Valley
Groundwork Hudson Valley (located just outside of New York City in Yonkers, New York) is the local branch of Groundwork USA, a national network that works to enhance environmental regeneration and sustainability through community based partnerships.
From 2011 to 2015 I served as evaluator for GWHV’s Get Fresh Yonkers program. Launched with major support from a USDA Community Food Projects grant program, the project helped to expand Groundwork’s farmers market, community supported agriculture program, and community gardens, and to create both a youth Farm Team and an urban agriculture cooperative called “Citizen Farmers.” Over the three-year grant period, we used surveys, focus groups, and photo documentation to assess the outcomes of the farmers market, community supported agriculture, community garden, Farm Team, and Citizen Farmers program. As of 2016, Groundwork Hudson Valley has begun a new climate literacy project for low-income youth (Global, Local, Coastal), funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I am working with project partners from Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River; Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research to evaluate educational outcomes of the project.
Alameda Point Collaborative
Alameda Point Collaborative is a supportive housing community for formerly homeless families located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Among its programs, the organization runs The Farm at Alameda Point Collaborative, a two-acre urban farm created by an on-site youth development program called Growing Youth Project (GYP). Beginning in 2005, GYP participants conducted a community food assessment and then worked with APC staff to build the farm, manage a community supported agriculture subscription program and run on-site farmers market.
From 2006-2008, I worked as the lead evaluator on the USDA Community Food Projects grant that enabled APC to launch the Growing Youth Project and the farm. I worked with GYP youth to design and conduct surveys of community supported agriculture and farmers market patrons; enter and analyze survey data; and create and deliver visual presentations of the findings to APC staff. I then used these data, along with one-on-one interviews with youth participants, to assess the extent to which the farm program and Growing Youth Project met APC and USDA goals of addressing food insecurity and fostering youth development in this low income community.