Introduction and Model for Community Programming and Evaluation

A growing body of research supports using a community change approach in program development. This approach utilizes an ecological or systemic programming model, which develops the capacity of the community system at a broader level than the individual or even the family. Although the community change approach is often greater in impact than individual programming approaches, community change is often difficult to produce, observe, and evaluate. One of the main frustrations with evaluating these types of programs is the tremendous amount of time it takes to get from program conception to tangible community changes. At the same time funders are asking for program impacts after as little as 6 months of programming. The Community National Outcome Workgroup feels strongly that there needs to be a framework for evaluation that allows community programmers to measure outcomes as they program, and at the same time, create a model for the eventual measuring of longer-term changes on community indicators. In order to create the evaluation tools needed to conduct this level of evaluation, a group of expert educators, program developers, and evaluators from 14 states was formed. For organizational purposes, a framework had to be conceived that would encompass all educational program efforts in the area of community impact. The resulting structure was adapted from the work of Hogue, Perkins, Clark, Bergstrom, Slinski, & Associates (1995). This group identified four interdependent areas in which community groups (often called collaborations) produce outcomes, which we have adopted as the indicator areas for community evaluation: Process Development, Resource Development, Policy Development, and Citizen Development.

In order to show how community capacity building efforts result in concrete community changes, evaluation must not only assess changes in group processes and structures, but also changes in community indicators. This requires evaluation at multiple levels of community systems and at multiple stages of the programming process. Even developments in groups processes, such as changes in the way a group works together, or structures its leadership, can have outcomes at the individual level. (i.e., A newly mobilized community member becomes a key leader in getting community policing available in the neighborhood, resulting in tremendous increases in individual feelings of empowerment and self-efficacy). Therefore even changes labeled as "process changes" can have impacts at multiple levels of the system, and are therefore very important to evaluate.

If community development efforts are successful, they will lead to the ultimate goal of making our communities the best possible places to live. Concrete community impacts such as reduction in crime, improvements in schools, decreases in unemployment, and improved environments are often targeted at an ultimate goal of community development efforts. The problem arises though, when these complexly determined community impacts are the heart of the program assessment criteria. We recommend that multiple levels of community processes and structures be evaluated in order to create a logical progression toward achievement and assessment of community impacts. Evaluation of both Process and Structural Factors, such as group functioning and changes in community resources and policies, will then create a logic model for the evaluation of community impacts.

Therefore, programming that seeks to create and document community change must be able to identify:

1. Changes in the efficiency and effectiveness of community group           processes

2. Changes in community structures (Policies, citizens, resources, etc.)

3. Changes in community social, economic, and environmental indicators.

Process development seeks to provide tools for assessing a change in the way a community group is formed and operates.

Impact area:  Process Development

Indicator areas: 
Strategic Planning
Key Stakeholders
Community Building
Link to Research
Community Assessment
System Leadership
System Communication
Research and Evaluation
Accessibility and Use of Resources


Structural factors seek to assess changes in the community resources; knowledge, skill, behavior, and mobilization of the individual community members; and community policies. Three impact areas were identified to measure these structural changes. 

Impact area: Resource Development

Indicator areas:
Environmental Capital
Financial Capital
Non-Fin Capital
Social Capital

Impact area:  Citizen Development

Indicator areas: 
Human Capital
Community Assets
Citizen Participation

Impact area:  Policy Development

Indicator areas: 
Changes in CYF Policies
Changes in People

Community Change Indicators - Changes in the social, economic, or environmental conditions (SEEC) of a community. Often, this is the ultimate goal of community programming.


Economic Well-being
Family Support
Quality of life

The community change evaluation resources presented here will allow a program to specifically look at program effects on the processes and structures in a community. Community changes in these areas allow for long term impacts on the children, youth and families in that community.  Evaluation resources for directly measuring impacts on Children, Youth and Families can be found in the other three national outcome areas: Children, Youth and Parent/Families.

Models for Community Change
     Bronfenbrenner’s Model of the Ecology of Human Development
     Risk and Resiliency
     Asset - Based Assessment
     The Collaboration Framework

Indicator Areas for Community Change
     Process Development
     Resource Development
     Citizen Development
     Policy Development
     Community Change Indicators


The CYFAR State Strengthening Projects are seeking to make communities safer and healthier places to live. Educational programs are creating impacts that must be assessed to show change and to lead to program improvement. Effective programming efforts need to be documented in ways that increase the likelihood of program replication. This will allow educational program models and practices that work to be more widely disseminated and utilized. Community Impact Evaluation materials will improve the capacity of the CYFAR State Strengthening Projects to measure the impact of their efforts in the community; thus allowing for the Cooperative Extension Service to remain a leader in research, program development, and dissemination in community programming.


Community - Often defined in terms of geography or physical area; however, to its citizens, a community can be defined in emotional terms. A citizen may not physically reside within the geographical boundaries of a community and yet still feel a part of that community. In terms of State Strengthening Projects, a community is the designated area that is affected by the individual project itself. One Targeted Community Project may define their community as a school district, another may define its community as a small urban neighborhood.

Community Groups (community linkages)
A linkage is any group of 2 or more individuals or agencies working together to meet a common need and achieve a common goal. This can range from networking type associations, to community-driven educational programming, to any level of existing groups such as boards, committees, coalitions, and collaborative groups.

Types of Groups/Linkages
Including: Networks, coalitions, alliances, cooperations, partnerships, and collaborations. (See the Collaboration Framework at For the purposes of this evaluation material, collaboration, which is often used to describe any level of community linkage or group working together, will be used specifically as defined as a formal type of community linkage as outlined in The Collaboration Framework, p 5.

Examples of Types of Groups/Linkages

Example One: A Family and Consumer Sciences agent wanting to start a parenting education program has informal conversations regarding shared space with other agencies in the community.
Example Two: Citizens who desire increased leadership skills come together for a series of classes in leadership development..

Cooperation or Alliance
Example: Agencies that provide any type of Parenting Education programs within a community will provide these services cooperatively and with shared and complementary goals. They form an advisory group that meets every couple months.

Coordination or Partnership
Example: Agency representatives and citizen participants form a group that shares curriculum and people resources to support a parenting education program. They form an advisory group that meets on a regularly scheduled basis.

Example: Agency representatives and citizens participants form a group that plans, designs, and implements a comprehensive parent education program within a community. Process requires a minimum of three years of work on the part of the group, which holds formal regularly scheduled meetings.

Example: Agency leaders and key citizen stakeholders form a group that plans, designs, and implements a comprehensive parent education program within a community. Process requires a minimum of three years work on the part of the group, which holds very formal links, regularly scheduled meetings, and which has highly developed communication.

Models of Community Change 
      Bronfenbrenner’s Model of the Ecology of Human Development
      Risk and Resiliency
      Asset - Based Assessment
      The Collaboration Framework
      Community Development 

Bronfenbrenner’s Model of the Ecology of Human Development
The ecological paradigm began with Lewin's (1951) Behavior = f (Person, Environment) model and Bronfenbrenner's (1979) Model of the Ecology of Human Development and definition of reciprocity, that humans are active and shape the environments in which they live. Bronfenbrenner suggested several levels at which the individual and the environmental systems interact. The basic concepts in Bronfenbrenner's model are helpful in illustrating the complexity of the systems in which the individual exists and how that is often multiple systems embedded in one another. (Pictured in Figure 1 as concentric circles) In the center of the model is the individual. The individual is encircled by the microsystem. Microsystems are the immediate pattern of activities, roles, and relationships of the individual. Microsystems are encircled by the mesosystem, the relationships between two or more settings in which the individual participates. Mesosystems exist within exosystems, which are settings outside of the individuals' direct contact but whose decisions affect the individual. Lastly, the outermost ring of the model represents macrosytems, the social order and cultural norms underlying the consistencies in the inner circles (See Figure 1, Bronfenbrenner, 1979). The ecological paradigm seeks to help the individual from the environmental perspective, "that is, by placing major attention on the creation and maintenance of challenging, supportive, and responsive environments, both proximate and distal" (Whittaker, Schinke, and Gilchrist, 1986, pp. 491-492).

Since Bronfenbrenner's original writings on the ecology of the individual, there has been a myriad of literature stressing the necessity of striving toward a systemic perspective in both program development and intervention, but there has been little movement in that direction (Andrews, Bubolz, and Paolucci, 1980; Rosado & Elias, 1993; Tittler, Friedman, Blotcky, and Stedrack, 1982). These studies show the improved program impact of moving away from the person-centered model of intervention predominant in mental health services to a multilevel, ecological intervention. Kraft and DeMaio state that the nature of interventions has not matched the paradigm shift on what works, "It seems likely that the disparity between the problem definition and the focus of intervention is related to the ineffectiveness of traditional services for adolescents; while the intervention focuses mainly on internal dimensions of the adolescent, the relationship between the adolescent and the various social systems - educational, legal, mental health - is virtually ignored" (Kraft & DeMaio, 1982, p. 132).

Intervening in the ecology of the individual is the most influential aspect of success (Beckett & Coley, 1987; Hobfoll, 1990; Jason, Betts, Johnson, Smith, Kruckeburg, & Cradock, 1989). This ecology must be understood from more than a geographic or socioeconomic perspective. Every local or economic situation can have all of the factors that make or break a person's chance for success.

Risk and Protective Factors
In the 1970's, Rutter began to investigate the mechanisms by which some children were able to maintain resiliency in the face of extremely stressful life situations. Risk factors were defined as "biological or psychosocial hazards that increase the likelihood of a negative developmental outcome" (Werner 1990). Through a series of longitudinal studies of children and their family and life situations, Rutter (1979) developed a list of both risk and protective mechanisms that showed consistent impact on the children's life across time. These risk factors include: Antisocial behavior, alienation, poor parental supervision, uninvolved parenting, unclear family expectations, problematic peer groups, academic difficulty, transitions, long work hours, poverty, media influences, etc. These factors make the individual more susceptible to problematic symptomology. Rutter's research on the variables found to be strongly associated with child psychiatric disorders and their prevalence in families suggests that the presence of one risk factor has no significant detrimental effect, but having two risk factors quadruples the probability of dysfunction. In addition, having four or more risk factors present increases the probability of dysfunction by 20 or 30 times than the individual with no risk factors (Rutter, 1979).

In a more hopeful light, this research also investigated the instances of individuals with several risk factors being able to maintain adaptive functioning. In a review of the child development literature, Werner (1990) suggests that there is a set of mechanisms that "protect" the at-risk individual from developing maladaptive behaviors. The factors are termed protective factors and include things such as self-efficacy, personal responsibility, well developed interpersonal skills, religious commitment, intellect, good social support, positive school or work experiences, and helpfulness. This would suggest that intervention focusing on increasing protective factors would be truly preventative for at-risk CYF (Brooks, 1994; Garmezy, 1993; Rutter 1979, 1987; Werner, 1990; Whittaker, Schinke, and Gilchrist, 1986).

Asset-Based Prevention
This field of research has changed fundamentally in the past few years. Instead of finding risk and protective factors primarily existing within the individual, there is a whole new literature on the factors that exist in the community or system within which the individual lives. The prevention, protective factor focus has been maintained, and these factors are now called assets. The individual can have specific assets, but the realization of these is largely determined by the assets that exist in the community and system at large. Kretzmann and McKnight (1993) have written extensively about community development through finding and mobilizing these assets within the community. (Jakes, 1997 - unpublished master's thesis) Their three interrelated characteristics that define "asset-based community development" closely resemble the philosophy of the CYFAR Initiative:

1.  It begins with what is present in the community, including the   capacities of the members, people who work there, as well as the associations and organizational base, not what is absent, problematic or "needed".

2.  This process is internally focused; i.e., it concentrates on the agenda building and problem solving capacities of local residents, associations and organizations.

3.  Asset based community development needs to be relationship driven; in other words, a critical focus for community development work must be on the relationships between and among local residents, associations and organizations.

John McKnight and John Kretzmann's (1993) work in community capacity building and their definition of community attempts to establish a common understanding of this complex concept. Community is "the social place used by family, friends, neighbors, neighborhood associations, clubs, civic groups, local enterprises, churches, ethnic associations, temples, local unions, local government, and local media" (McKnight, 1995: p. 164). A community of associations (collaborating organizations) according to McKnight and Kretzmann (1993) is one key to building healthy communities. Healthy communities and healthy families create a self-strengthening bond.

While McKnight and Kretzmann (1993) argue that communities need external resources to assist them with their efforts, all communities (and their organizations and individual members) possess significant assets that can be mobilized and utilized. The authors feel this assets based approach is particularly important in the approach to citizen participation in low income communities where the tradition has been to begin with deficits rather than strengths. These authors take the needs assessment folks head on, stressing the critical point of starting with a positive assessment of existing capacity as opposed to gaps, or deficiencies. Some call this the just say "yes" approach. Dr. Spock lives on as theorists, rooted in the 1960s, apply child rearing perspectives to community structure. McKnight and Kretzmann (1992) have broken down assets and capacities into three categories.

The first of these categories is primary building blocks, assets that are located in the community and are controlled by its members (includes skills of community members and local businesses, forms of human and social capital). They call the second category secondary building blocks. These are assets not currently under community control but which can be brought under its control. Subsequently they can be used for community-building purposes (e.g. private and nonprofit institutions and services). McKnight and Kretzmann (1993) refer to the third category as potential building blocks. (Here again we see that from an individual level of analysis, a whole school of contemporary action researchers have moved the assets based focus into "resiliency factors" as an assessment tool for working with disadvantaged individuals, most frequently, children. While the focus upon children is not particularly relevant to this discussion - which has assumed that we are talking primarily about adult citizens - it is noteworthy in that much of extension's youth and family programming focus has been influenced by the resiliency focus. Of course we can't lose sight of the fact that today's children are tomorrow's adults; children and adults are, of course, citizens. The common dimension here is the building of social capital, be it "learning healthy social skills" or "finding positive role models", which can pay off as more self-sufficient, well-centered, participating citizens of the future. (Schmidt, 1998)

The Collaboration Framework ( The Collaboration Framework outlines a framework in which community linkages operate. It provides definitions of the types of linkages, process and contextual factors influencing linkages, and a model for the interaction of all of these factors. This Framework has been used extensively in the development of these community evaluation resources and has been reviewed and revised with the input of team members from the National Network for Collaboration. This site will provide and explanation of the framework as well as many other Collaboration resources.

Community Development
There are tremendous resources in community development available through your local Cooperative Extension office. One Internet based tool that has thousands of pages of community development "how tos" is the Community Tool Box available at





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