query: organizing outcomes

colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Wed Feb 4 12:17:06 CST 2004


[ed:  thanks to Elaine and Heidi for responding to Linda's query.]

From: Elaine Simon <esimon at sas.upenn.edu>

Linda --

You could look at the reports of the Indicators Project on Community 
Organizing for Education Reform that I and my colleagues at Research 
for Action & Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform completed 
a little while back. There is also a paper by Eva Gold, myself and Chris 
Brown on the comm-org web site that is an overview of that study and 
its findings.  For its application to specific sites as well as another 
report on this project, you can look at the Cross-City web site  
http://www.crosscity.org/programs/indicators/findings.htm  Although the 
study was specifically aimed at measuring outcomes  of organizing in 
education reform, the "theory of change" and the format, it seems to us, 
could be applied to other targets of organizing. Elaine Simon  

Elaine Simon, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Urban Studies Program
University of Pennsylvania
Room 130 McNeil Building, 3718 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6209
Phone: 215/898-6948
Fax: 215/573-2138
website: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/urban

*************************

From: "Heidi Swarts" <HJSwarts at maxwell.syr.edu>

Dear COMM-ORG:

In response to Linda Plitt Donaldson's query about ways to assess 
community organizing outcomes, my recent research project (now a 
book manuscript about to be sent out to publishers for review) studies 
four community organizations, two congregation-based and two 
ACORN chapters, and considers both organizing processes and 
outcomes. Here is an outline of the ways I "measured" outcomes and 
data I used, which came from a year of full-time fieldwork, interviews 
with 75 leaders, and scores of interviews with organizers and other 
political actors in the two cities, San Jose and St. Louis.  

OUTCOMES:
1) organizational power, which included
	a) mobilization capacity (how many people organization can
mobilize, based on observation, interviews, newspaper articles,
organization records)
	b) leadership continuity (the number of years leaders
interviewed reported being active in their organization)
	c) organizational reputation (interviews with local officials,
journalists, etc.)
	d) regular access to authorities, and
	e) ability to influence agendas (policy innovations proposed by
group; could measure news coverage)
2) policy outcomes; (compared dollar value, when available, of
organization's accomplishments and the scale of its
accomplishments--state, city, and neighborhood).  
3) representation of poor Americans (measured by issues the group
pursued, and interviews with low-income leaders to assess the issues
they were most concerned about)
4) ability to build coalitions across race and class (demographic data
of activists)
5) politicization of poor and working Americans by
	a) drawing large numbers of them into contentious politics
(mobilization capacity, (1a) above), and
	b) training their grassroots leaders in political skills
(interviews: asked whether activists' subjective sense of efficacy
changed through participation in group, and also counted number of
skills interviewees reported having practiced in group. These included
conducting research on issues, public speaking, chairing meetings,
planning strategy, other (subject named another skill such as 
conducting
one-to-one interviews, or language translation during meetings.).

Heidi J. Swarts
Assistant Professor
Political Science
100 Eggers Hall
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY 13244
315-443-1744
hjswarts at maxwell.syr.edu



> 
> From: "Linda Plitt Donaldson" <lp.donaldson at verizon.net>
> 
> I am wondering what type of benchmarks people/organizations are
> using to measuring outcomes for community organizing. 
> Organizations/groups that I am working with have expressed a
> reluctance to hire an organizer partly because they're not sure
> how to demonstrate progress to funders and to Board members who
> are dubious about the "concrete" benefits of organizing.  
> 
> What are people using to measure organizing outcomes, and does
> anyone know of any literature written about measuring outcomes in
> organizing?  
> 
> Thanks.
> 
> Linda Plitt Donaldson
> Catholic University
> 
> 
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