Resources for community workers
The Connecting Communities Learning Matrix is a collection of information and tips for doing legal information training from completed Connecting projects. This is a live tool that will be updated as Connecting projects contribute learnings from their PLE training projects.
Program evaluation is often viewed as important mainly for its role in gaining further funding. This is because funders typically base funding decisions on evaluation results or program outcomes. However, a meaningful program evaluation process can also be an invaluable tool you can use to increase the effectiveness of your training program.
- To learn how to improve your work. Feedback from participants is critical to understanding what worked well and what needs to be changed in the training.
- To fulfill funding requirements
Choosing an evaluation strategy
- Your evaluation strategy will be determined by what you are trying to measure or evaluate. For example, if you want to answer the question, Has your training helped participants better understand the law?, you may survey participants, do follow-up interviews, or use other strategies to evaluate how well your training met that goal.
- Your evaluation plan can include different evaluation strategies, such as:
- qualitative (incorporating descriptive information such as comments, suggestions, feedback, etc.)
- quantitative (using objective measures such as the number of participants, the number of sessions held, etc.)
- developmental (a dynamic approach used for evaluating innovative and complex programs, which can be used at different phases of the program)
Formulating an evaluation plan
- Use information that your organization has gathered through surveys, focus groups or needs assessments to help develop your evaluation plan.
- Make sure you include a mechanism for sharing findings with funders, partners, participants, and other stakeholders.
Methods to gather evaluation information
- online surveys
- paper surveys
- exit interviews
- follow-up phone calls
- focus groups with training participants
Evaluating with your partners
- If a number of partners are involved in a project, it is important to come up with some common evaluation tools to collect core information from sources.
- The data collection forms developed by Connecting Communities collect core information from each Connecting project. These include:
A vital step in setting up a Connecting Communities Project is identifying and developing the partnerships needed to carry out the project goals. Partnerships are central to many, if not most, training initiatives.
- maximized knowledge sharing
- greater network building
- improved referrals
- greater support of work done outside of the original project
- cost effective projects
Identifying and choosing partners
- Are there agencies we know about but haven’t worked with yet? Would they be effective potential partners?
- Are there agencies that can help us identify new potential partners who would suit our projects?
- Who are the most important partners to engage and why? Things to consider include:
- partner's knowledge of the issue or area of law
- partner's familiarity with community
- what partner brings to the process (technical skills, adult education experience, etc.)
Informal partnership agreements
- have no written contract
- are most common when organizations have a history of working together and successful collaboration
Sharing space with partners
- Working out of a common location (co-location) can help build synergies, promote solid relationships, and support new ideas and problem solving.
- Co-location may include sharing physical space, creating a common intake process, sharing a client database, and carrying out joint case management meetings.
Formal partnership agreements
- clarifies roles, functions and responsibilities
- provides a base to operate from should issues arise
- is recommended for new partnerships
Expectations/roles of partners
- It is important to articulate what each partner is contributing to the project.
- A partnership agreement defines the roles and responsibilities of each partner.
- Agreements may range from formal and written to informal and undocumented.
- Whether your agreement is formal or informal, it is important to agree on a conflict resolution strategy.
Partnerships and referrals
- update referral lists periodically and share with staff at participating agencies
- redirect wrong or inappropriate referrals
Ongoing support of effective partnerships
- setting up, developing and nurturing a participatory process so that none of the partners are left out, or feel left out
- reviewing the partnership agreement periodically
- supporting promotion and outreach efforts
- making sure conflict resolution strategies identified in the agreement are used in the event of a conflict or disagreement
Once the partnership, in whichever form, has been established and the project work begins, promotion and outreach efforts are crucial to success.
Promotion & Outreach timeline
Why promotion and outreach?
- To inform target communities about the project
- To attract possible future partners and build linkages between them
How do we plan for effective promotion and outreach?
- Understand your target community and where they might access information.
- Identify key leaders and contact people who can provide a way into your target community.
- Where possible, attend conferences or community events as they can be a vital tool in building new relationships and reinforcing existing ones.
- Take advantage of existing networks, coalitions and groups as much as possible.
Social media resources to enhance awareness of training
- Real time web sharing
- Online discussion boards
What kinds of promotional activities are most effective?
- There is no single best approach to promotion and outreach. Once you have identified the needs and abilities of your target community, consider using a range of promotion and outreach activities.
Updating promotion and outreach tools
- Social media requires constant updating. Make sure that enough time is allocated for this. Consider making one person responsible for updating all social media promotion on a regular basis.
Even if promotion and outreach is a success, the training is the key to making the program effective.
Training strategies timeline
- Do you have a project coordinator?
- Do you have a lead person to organize logistics and content of training?
- Is the training supported by management? Is the training scheduled so that it works with staff schedules?
- Training content should be relevant and meaningful to participants.
- Before the training, set up a mechanism to get input from prospective participants.
- If possible, in rural and remote locations, hold a face-to-face meeting before the start of online training to build trust.
- After the training, have participants evaluate the training.
- Provide opportunities for participants to be actively involved in training; ask participants to answer questions and encourage questions from participants.
- Use icebreakers to help participants get to know each other and to create a comfortable environment.
Access to technology
- Do participants have access to technological resources (for example, hardware and software)?
- If no, can you provide access at a location near them?
- Can they use the required technology individually, or do they need assistance?
- How many people can use the technology at a time? Are there any other limitations?
- Can you arrange for transcripts of online training sessions?
Factors to consider before deciding on training strategies
- Target demographic
- Distance (online or in-person)
- Goals and objectives of project
- Financial resources available
- Training content
- Staff's familiarity with technology
- Have you canvassed what materials and resources exist?
- Can you find materials that are easy to understand for your audience?
- Do you need to make new materials?
Literacy and legal accuracy
- Know the literacy levels of your participants and make sure your training materials are written in clear language and at an accessible reading level.
- Make sure any legal content in your training has been reviewed by lawyers or legal experts.
Strategies for interactive webinars
- Send out webinar materials.
- Email specific questions for discussion, and identity issues to think about.
- Arrange for participants to do the webinar together (i.e., in the same location) if they live near one another.
- Give participants a question or short assignment to answer about their day to day experience.
- Include real time “Q and A”.
- Is the space accessible?
- Does the space have break out rooms?
- Does the space have enough tables and chairs for participants as well as a place for materials and snacks?
- Is the environment formal or informal? What kind of environment will your participants be most comfortable in?
Approaches to training
- Guest speakers
- Panel discussions
- Small group discussions
- Role play
- Interactive games
- Questionnaires and quiz sheets
- Problem solving exercises
- Case studies
- Visual aids
In-person vs. online training
- Online training is appropriate for topics that don't require much discussion; this can include providing overview information about changes in the law or walking participants through how to fill out a form.
- In-person training is appropriate for more interactive training programs where participants will engage in a variety of activities, including working in small groups.
Making participant needs a priority
- During discussions, keep track of who wants to speak and try to make sure everyone gets a turn.
- Let the group know when time is getting short, i.e., "We only have time to hear from two more people..."
- Respond to interests brought up during the session; if you don't have time to address them, "park" them by making a note somewhere (i.e., on chart paper, sticky notes, etc.); follow up might be done by email, or on another day.
- Try to keep discussions on topic; and try to stick to the point when answering questions.
Participant comfort level
- Be aware of the potential for topics being raised that are difficult or taboo for some participants.
- Encourage interaction, but allow people to pass if they wish.
- Use icebreakers and exercises to build comfort levels and trust during training.