How Communities of Opportunity is measuring outcomes collaboratively—and why that matters.

Communities of Opportunity (COO) has launched a rigorous, participatory evaluation to assess outcomes toward strengthening community connections and achieving equity in the areas of health, housing and economic opportunity.

We caught up with members of COO’s evaluation team, Valerie Tran from BDS Planning & Urban Design and Dr. Kim Tippens, Social Research Scientist from Public Health- Seattle & King County to learn more about the approach and what’s to come.

Tell us about participatory evaluation and why it’s the right match for Communities of Opportunity?
Unlike conventional evaluation approaches that can be top-down or perpetuate inequities, participatory evaluation brings stakeholders and evaluators together to collaboratively develop and implement the evaluation. In alignment with COO’s values of shared power and decision-making, a participatory approach ensures partners, governance group, and staff play an active role throughout the evaluation process.

For COO, this means community partners will work with our national and local evaluation team to identify the most salient evaluation questions, plan the evaluation design, select relevant and appropriate performance measures and data collection methods, and gather data and interpret findings.

While a participatory evaluation approach requires more time and resources of partners along the way, ultimately, the approach is designed to ensure evaluation questions accurately reflect the priorities and experiences of communities and findings are informative for those communities to advance their work. Participatory evaluation means partnership evaluation.

COO has brought a multi-disciplinary team together for this work. What are the different skills the team brings?
Convened by BDS Planning & Urban Design, the BDS Team is a group of individuals and firms representing a diversity of backgrounds, professional, and lived experiences.

BDS Planning & Urban Design has extensive experience with facilitation and planning for complex, multi-sector initiatives in King County. BDS’s project manager is a former COO policy & systems change partner.

Our engagement specialists, Jackie St. Louis and Nissana Nov have been providers of community-based initiatives throughout King County.

Our quantitative team, comprised of Urban Design 4 Health, ChangeLab Solutions, and HealthxDesign, brings decades of local and international experience in evaluating initiatives, programs, and policies that influence the built environment, health, housing, community, and economic development.

Together, our team will work in collaboration with COO partners, governance group, King County, and Seattle Foundation to ensure that this evaluation is useful, community-led, rigorous, and informative.

What are some of the goals for this evaluation?
The purpose of this evaluation is to document the ways in which the initiative has made progress toward racial, income, and geographical equity in the four result areas (community connections, economic conditions, health, and housing). In short, the evaluation seeks to answer the questions:

  • How much did we do?
  • How well did we do it?
  • Is anyone better off?

To do this, COO’s evaluation partner will confirm baseline conditions and then illustrate the impact of changes in policies, systems and community conditions, including the estimated number of people reached by those changes.

The BDS team also intends to demystify evaluation for partners by elevating traditional and non-traditional data and storytelling methods. Storytelling relies on people to make sense of their own experiences and environments. It is a culturally appropriate approach that gives voice to collective experience and puts a face to facts and figures.

Lastly, through this evaluation, the BDS team aims to hold itself, and fellow evaluators and researchers accountable to doing the requisite work to engage in a true listening and learning process that is mutually beneficial.

What is the first phase of the evaluation?
In the first phase, our evaluation team will be working with partners and the COO Governance Group to guide the development of an evaluation plan. This plan will lead us into working hand-in-hand with partners to identify performance measures and implement culturally appropriate ways for collecting and analyzing quantitative and qualitative data.

The External Evaluation Team- point your cursor over images for names and organizations.


For future updates on COO Evaluation, visit

Originally posted March 9, 2018

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