An analytic case study of the evaluation reports of a comprehensive community initiative

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2004-10-05

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This study is a case study of the evaluation reports of the Neighborhood and Family Initiative (NFI). NFI was a ten-year Ford Foundation sponsored comprehensive community initiative (CCI) in four low-income neighborhoods in four United States cities. The NFI evaluation was longitudinal, interdisciplinary, and multi-tiered. Through this study of the eleven publicly released evaluation reports, I found that the evaluators not only wrote about CCIs and evaluation but also evidenced evaluation as part of loosely linked network supporting urban community development. The knowledge community addressed in the study is the Aspen Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives a national coalition supporting the discussion of evaluation appropriate to community initiatives. The study involved the identification of reporting dimensions from descriptive analysis, evaluation lessons from the documented evaluatorsÂ' interpretations, and change constructs from my theoretical concerns. The study resulted in a discussion of issue areas to be addressed in understanding evaluation reporting of complex social and policy initiatives. These issue areas included: community organization building versus coalition formation, comprehensiveness as a lens for change, audience, institutional distancing, and learning, knowledge development and education. With the study, I also provide an innovative methodological approach to analyzing change through the language evaluators put to initiative reporting. The qualitative approach involved devising a process for analyzing description and evaluator written reflection but also analyzing change of evaluator interpretations. Unlike qualitative approaches that emphasize only themes as recurrences over time, the approach to this study centered ideas as clusters that changed in configuration over time.

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