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2010 Fall Directors Meeting Session — Impact Organizing and Assessment

Page history last edited by Ariane Hoy 9 years, 11 months ago

The notes below come from the Impact Organizing and Assessment strategy session.  This session was held at the 2010 Fall Directors' Meeting (November 7-9, 2010).  


While we began these discussions about a year ago, progress is slow, but happening in some pockets.  Some campus programs are having conversations or preliminary thinking with some partner sites and institutional researchers.  In writing up the notes, I have also integrated some contextual information where relevant (e.g., current assessment of where we stand with regards to the key strands of work articulated).  These notes will also be added to the Bonner Initiatives Wiki, where volunteers for this initiative will be invited to contribute on various next steps.  ~ Ariane Hoy (please contact me for more information - ahoy@bonner.org) 



Strategy Session for Impact Organizing and Assessment
(a.k.a. From Issues to Impact) 


These notes include:

  • Common Factors and Steps for Success
  • Notes on Future Wants and Needs
  • Notes on Participating Campus Programs


Campuses that participated in this dialogue include:


  • Maryville College
  • Oberlin College
  • Rhodes College
  • Siena College
  • Stetson University
  • The College of New Jersey
  • University of Richmond
  • Washburn University
  • Wofford College


Common Factors and Steps for Success


When campus program staff described the steps, processes and activities they currently undertake to advance their campus-community partnerships, the following factors appeared to be in common.


Reassessment and focus with community partners

  • Strategies for reviewing current or potential partners to ascertain their degree of fit with the Bonner Program as structural changes to placements are made.  This might include an assessment of the partner’s capacity to develop positions with multiple dimensions of challenge.
  • In many cases, campuses move to having fewer core partnerships (e.g., moving from Bonners being placed at 30 sites to being placed at 12 sites).


Surfacing and re-orienting around community issues

  • In most cases, as the programs make these moves to deepen their community partnerships, it’s important that they also identify the needs and assets of the community.  


Adopting a developmental approach to community partnerships

  • This includes formal and informal education and dialogue with partner representatives about their needs and wants.  It also includes education about the multiple dimensions of civic work (volunteer positions, CBR, service-learning projects, policy research, etc.) that could be provided by the Bonner Program or other entities on campus.
  • Here, there is a mutual understanding that the partnership and its components can grow developmentally as the capacity (on both partner and campus sides) is enhanced.


Capacity building initiatives

  • Here, the program then works to evolve the partnership (beginning, emerging, mature, high functioning) by providing services and resources that enhance the partner’s capacity in numerous ways.  Specific activities that may contribute to greater site capacity include:
    • Volunteer recruitment
    • Volunteer coordination (e.g., by a student leader, VISTA, etc.)
    • Position clarification (e.g., development of job descriptions or VADs)
    • Training or educational workshops (which may be provided by multiple sources)
    • Material resource development (in-kinds)
    • Technology training or projects (e.g., development of a website or wiki)
    • Pairing with faculty members to carry out academically-connected projects
  • In addition, the program may enter into other collaborative work to harness and/or increase the resource base of the agency or project including:
    • Grant writing
    • Provision of available campus resources
    • Development of staffing (VISTAs, full-time summer interns, dedicated campus staff)


Infrastructure development (especially on the campus side)

  • As the program makes these structural changes with partners, they also must make changes to their own internal staffing structure, redistributing the work load among staff and student leaders.  Most programs develop a stronger managerical structure in this process, clarifying the roles of leaders for each site.


Using data and information strategically

  • The programs find and create ways to gather data and information from partners more systematically and strategically, using this information to improve the program’s work and planning.  Sources of information include:
    • Surveys of community partners
    • Detailed interviews
    • Site visits (conversations)


Calendar considerations and alignment

  • Because most campuses operate on school year (August to June) calendars whereas the sites operate year-round, if the campus program can do some work to better align its calendar with the site’s this can also be helpful.  The provision of summer staff or volunteers, for example, has happened in many cases.



  • Campus program staff and student leadership also engage in more systematic and long-range planning with the partner agency.  This can include strategic planning, the development of VISTA three-year job descriptions, and other related efforts.  Programs capture this information in writing and apply it (in position descriptions, fundraising efforts, and so on).  


Piloting academic connections and projects

  • Campus program staff also facilitate (or reaffirm) the involvement of faculty members in these campus-community partnerships in several ways:
    • Pairing faculty member(s) with the site/issue team
    • Involving faculty through discrete service projects (e.g., campus-wide service day)
    • Recruiting faculty for specific service-learning or community-based research projects
    • Engaging specific relevant departments (e.g., social work or education) which may provide student interns to the partner

In these cases, the program staff are generally looking to forge a longer-term relationship and strategy for linking academic work to the ongoing volunteer work for the site.


Piloting community-oriented assessment strategies

  • Work in this area is very preliminary, but some campuses are beginning conversations with their institutional research and assessment departments and a few partners about ways they might do this.  The focus should be centered on measures of community impact that ascertain whether campus-community partnerships (Bonner Program work and other initiatives) is helping partners better meet their own goals and objectives.




Notes on Future Wants and Needs


Time and space to access and integrate the models and strategies each campus program needs — e.g., through coordinated consulting time

  • For example, other programs want to learn how to develop and utilize a VISTA program the way that Siena and Washburn have done


Coordinated conversations and consulting sessions on topics and strategies would be useful.  These could occur through:

  • Conference Calls
  • Wiki work space


Make shifts to Bonner Meetings that build in work and processing time (woven around these strategy sessions and workshops on specific topics).  

  • This could be akin to the Big Idea planning time that happens with Bonner Congress Reps; in this case, Bonner staff want to work on their own ideas and strategies for their programs


There is interest in having a Bonner Foundation network wide “consulting corps” which would consist of program staff.  A strategy that enabled campus staff to travel to other campuses and work with them is desired.  (This could be a modern version of COOL’s Road Scholars but with administrators/faculty).


Gather and share relevant assessment instruments/tools (pertaining to issue areas). 


Identify and bring relevant community partner / agency representatives to meetings/gatherings.  In particular, develop a strategy for smaller gatherings on a given topic, where teams would engage in planning and strategy work (e.g., cluster meeting).  

  • These meetings would also be venues to surface and distill best practices and models for particular approaches (from service to policy research) on given topics or types of partnerships


Develop strategies to foster cross program and site connections (sharing approaches, information, models, tools, etc.)


Create a definition and framework for impact assessment


Inventory and flesh out the types of services that campus programs (the network) is and could be providing to community partners

  • For example, in this area Siena College is looking at NY Cares model for doing partner agency evaluation and support




Notes on Participating Campus Programs


Below is a short summary about each campus program that attended the strategy session and that actively work on deepening their campus-community partnerships and restructure around multi-level partnerships.



Maryville College (Maryville, TN)


The Bonner Program is mainly site-based, with students identifying their placements through advising and connections to their academic and personal interests; however, students also belong to issue-based clubs.  These clubs are also campus-wide, with participation from other student volunteers (and funding from Student Government Association).  In the past year, the staff coordinator met with these issue-based clubs to discuss and set goals.


The Bonner Program has worked collaboratively with another center on campus, the Center for Strong Communities (which has handled much of the long-term visioning and strategizing with partners).  (However, institutional financial cut-backs are currently affecting the center, so reshifting of roles may again occur).


Support for multi-dimensional student engagement is occuring through training and enrichment, with the integration of a focus on advocacy.  (See notes for Moving Students from Service to Policy).


Contact:  Preston Fields (preston.fields@maryvillecollege.edu)


Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH)


Oberlin has begun highlighting a focus on site and issue teams in its Bonner Scholars Program and related community service work study initiatives.  Issue focus areas include education, youth mentoring, college access, and environmental sustainability.  They have consulted with TCNJ’s Bonner Program also.


To make some of these changes, they also have used intentional training for project coordinators.  The ALLIES Program (which has for several years offered upper-class students training in higher-level leadership and civic skills) has been transformed into the LEADS Program, which provides two weeks of pre school-year training for site leaders/project coordinators.  The program now hopes to do one year strategic planning with committed community partners, involving ten student PCs in the process.


Oberlin has also experimented with and applied policy research (PolicyOptions), doing this mostly around environmental and good issues. They created a local food policy coalition and have carried out several CBR projects for this topic.  There have been some individual Bonner students and other students involved in this work. Faculty have also been advisors to this process through a board.


Contact:  Beth Blissman (beth.blissman@oberlin.edu


Rhodes College  (Memphis, TN)


In the 2009-2010 school year, the program began its shift to re-orient the 80-person Bonner Scholar Program around issue/site teams.  This has included an important philosophical shift in which everyone who interfaces with issues is viewed as a staff member.  The college itself is motivated in this direction because of its work on the Learning Corridor Scholars program (supported by the Teagle Foundation).  


Right now, the transition is more gradual, building on the interest of particular sites and issue areas.  For example, the organization BRIDGES, which had already hosted several Bonners for multi-year and multi-level positions, expresses great interest in piloting of deeper strategic partnerships and impact assessment.  The organization is going about its own work in this area and sees its partnership with Rhodes as a vehicle to help it expand and deepen its work with youth.




Contact:  Walt Tennyson (tennysonw@rhodes.edu)


Siena College (Albany, NY)


The Bonner Program, which began in 2008, is organized into a full site/issue team model with seven committed community partners.  The teams range in size and level, but each one has a designated student site leader.  Senior Interns also work as another level of managerial and logistical support for each site, with the teams assigned to one of three interns.  Most of the teams also have a full-time VISTA member, with Siena also managing a core of 20 full-time VISTA members who can be placed at partner agencies throughout the Capital Region.  


In terms of student education and management, students attend a mix of All Bonner Meetings (twice a month), site team meetings, and cohort-based trainings.  They have also experimented with and applied policy research projects (PolicyOptions), with a focus on community development (Greenway), which also has included an examination of food security.  


The program has a strong focus on collecting and using data to inform its work; this is supported in part by Siena’s Research Institute (which carries out the ASCE and other projects).  Program staff can quickly create and implement surveys (including for community partners), and they have done so on many dimensions (including, most recently, a survey of partners’ technology needs).  


In terms of impact assessment, the program may be able to pilot the use of some impact studies with one or a few partners (such as UNITY House, a larger non-profit that also hosts multiple Bonner Leaders and other student volunteers).


Siena’s program has a strong focus on capacity building, underscored by its DEEP Service philosophy and model.  See the full case study on this model here.


Contacts:  Mathew Johnson (mjohnson@siena.edu) and Gretchen Mielke (gmielke@siena.edu)



Stetson University (Deland, FL)


The Bonner Program (hybrid Scholar/Leader designation) began integration of issue-oriented enrichment a few years ago; this fall, the program itself adopted structural change around seven issue teams.  Overall, the program also focused down to twenty (20) main community partners, fueled in part by community asset mapping and analysis.  


This summer, Bonner staff interviewed all community partners in an effort to strengthen developmental placements as well as surface community issues and needs (that might connect, for example, with faculty interest in community-based research).  The program hopes to integrate a focus on policy research this year.  A Bonner alum (Matt Morton, who is also studying these topics) is to be involved with pilot efforts to develop community assessment strategies.


In addition, Stetson participated in the ASCE (with Siena’s help).  Administrative leaders hope to integrate this information with other institutional interests in a longer-range strategic plan.


Contacts:  Savannah-Jane Atkins (satkins@stetson.edu), Amanda Reece Nix (anix@stetson.edu), and Rina Tovar (rtovar@stetson.edu)



The College of New Jersey (Ewing/Trenton, NJ)


The Bonner Program is organized around ten issue teams with deep partners; this transition began about 2005.  In addition 6-7 organizations provide placements and experiences for multiple faculty members.  Bonners are integrally involved in planning and leading civic engagement experiences for 1,400 first year students.  Forty professors are also involved in these experiences, linking the service days with first year seminars.  


In 2010, the program began a new process of putting the partnerships ‘out to bid,’ meaning that partners had to complete an RFP to delineate what they want from the campus-community partnership and Bonner Program.  Through this process, committed sites are completing an annual site plan.  


In terms of assessment, the Bonner Program currently carries out survey-based student impact assessment, which includes a pre- and post-survey for Bonner Scholars and Leaders.  A faculty member and graduate student are currently interested in exploring this data more fully.  Students also complete surveys that inform the training calendar.  In terms of site assessment, the Bonner Program is in conversation with one partner, a K-12 school they have adopted, about an impact-oriented survey for students in the sixth grade.


Contacts:  Pat Donohue (pdonohue@tcnj.edu), Paula Figueroa-Vega (pfiguero@tcnj.edu), Maria De La Cruz (mdelacruz@tcnj.edu) and Brittany Aydelotte (aydelot2@tcnj.edu)



University of Richmond (Richmond, VA)


The Bonner Scholar Program is currently devising strategies to move its 100-person program around a combination of site and issue teams.  These teams vary in size; some involve multiple sites adopting an issue coalition.  Over the past few years, they have been focusing their community partnerships, now focusing with about 30 core partners.  In addition, Bonner Scholars are asked to spend 3+ years at one site after intentionally exploring several during their first year in the program.


The program has also experimented with policy research (PolicyOptions), including through the work of student policy interns.  


Staff are also in conversation with the department of institutional assessment about identifying ways to integrate and pilot community assessment.


Contact:  Kim Dean (kimberly.dean@richmond.edu)



Washburn University


Washburn’s Bonner Leader Program is organized around issue groups, including health care, literacy, and other topics.  While students involved in this AmeriCorps supported program engage in direct service placements, they also participate in education and reflection geared at helping them understand the root causes and issues.  As an AmeriCorps backed program, they offer students a variety of slot terms including 300 hour, 450 hour, and 900 hour.  Washburn hopes to transition to a four-year program model in the next few years.


Washburn also has the ability to recruit and place sixty VISTAS for the statewide network; some are placed far from Topeka.  Several VISTAs, however, are placed with local partners in capacity-building positions.  


In the past year, Washburn also completed the ASCE and hopes to use this information to fuel other campus-wide infrastructure development.  They had worked to make some significant changes to the curricular requirements and structure for students that would provide connection with and support for civic engagement; some of these have not yet been fully implemented. The program has also experimented with policy research, participating in the PolicyOptions project.


In terms of assessment, one academic course is experimenting with some qualitative study of community partners.  


Contacts:  Rick Ellis (rick.ellis@washburn.edu) and Kristine Hart (kristine.hart@washburn.edu)



Wofford College (Spartanburg, SC)


Wofford’s Bonner Scholars Program in the past year made a major shift from an individual placement strategy to a project-oriented team model.  In this process, they winnowed from 60 partners to 10 for the program.  Partners and staff discussed the projects through the lens of an anti-poverty, social justice framework, but students themselves have also taken on much responsibility for the design and implementation of these shifts.


These changes were also informed by surfacing issues in the Spartanburg area, building on the seventy year work of the community indicators project, which identified a set of community-wide indicators of well-being (e.g., poverty rates, unemployment rates, teen pregnancy, and so on).  These indicators, however, still raise questions at times about how the volunteers work should be focused (e.g. is enrolling families in food stamps a step towards eliminating hunger?).


In addition, Wofford hopes to work more collaboratively with other area colleges and universities in a way that aligns with a community-assessment approach.  In terms of other assessment, they are talking about ways to assess the effectiveness of training and education for students, using a pre- and post- test.


Contact:  Jessalyn Story (storyjw@wofford.edu)



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