query: organizing outcomes

colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Fri Feb 6 19:18:36 CST 2004

[ed:  thanks to Doug for responding to linda's query.]

Any evaluation is laden with values. So ask yourself what values you 
want to get out of organizing and what values the organizers think they 
bring with their work. Define the values broadly. For instance, take a 
look at the ACORN website and read over some past victories there. 
Imagine how would you evaluate what might have lead up to and 
happened after the events involved. Research, meetings, staff 
development, fundraising, legislation, voter registration drives, etc.  

Then ask how you would measure any of that. Frankly, much probably 
cannot be measured easily. For instance, maybe 20 residents attend a 
series of workshops on leadership development. Was it great 
experience or a crappy one? Who knows. You have to talk to the 
leaders first hand. Generally, foundation muckity-mucks are impressed 
with low-income community leaders since they don't meet them that 
much (no offense), so getting out there is always a way to help make 
community organizing shine. On paper, it's hard to capture a lot of it, 
and much of what I have seen (from academics or foundation staff) is 
people organizing evidence to support the theories with which they wish 
to conclude their paper.  

Bottom line: what are your values and does organizing help with that? If 
so, look for good organizers and support networks for them. Ask what 
they plan to do and then periodically ask what they did do and talk 
openly about what explains the difference or surplus between the two. 
In my experience and readings, many organizing "failures" are just 
misunderstandings from the outside, but might indicate a lack of mature 
planning or expectations on the part of front line staff. No 
embarrassment there, just need to keep the management of funding 
focused on the need for support of organizing as well as the organizing 
itself. Hope this makes sense....  

Doug Hess
Ph.D. Student, 
School of Public Policy & Administration,
George Washington University

Home address: 
2114 N St., NW Apt. 23
Washington, DC 20037
(cell 202-276-4807)

> 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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