The Impact We’re Having

This was originally posted on the Transition Network blog on April 29, 2014.

At Transition in Kitchener-Waterloo, we have recently achieved a lot of new things, and it’s been exciting. We have launched our Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit, and we have also become an official Transition initiative. We have a lot to be celebrating – and we’re definitely doing that – along with some of our new volunteers (the best part about success = people want to be with you!). But after that celebrating comes some reflection.

We’re getting attention and we’re getting new people in TransitionKW. But how are we doing at reaching the broader community? How are we doing at getting projects that are targeting the kind of change we need? Is our work contributing to the Great Turning? Does our community know that we’re part of the Great Turning?

One way we’re trying to measure the impact and reach of the toolkit is to look at the numbers – how many people are reading the toolkit?  We have tracking on the website – we know how many people visit, from where, and how long they spend on the website. We track how many times the toolkit is downloaded. We can contact the libraries to find out how many people are checking them out. Therefore we know how many people in our community have been exposed to the toolkit.

But we don’t know how many people have made changes because of our work.

That brings us to another way we’re trying to measure our impact – finding stories. We want stories of what people are doing to make changes in their lives, and how they are sharing that experience with their community. Stories are hard to collect, they take time, and they’re personal. The main way we plan to collect stories is in person, at events, workshops, meetings, festivals, and just generally being out and about. We are also doing an online survey – but that’s more a requirement of our grant funding than a good idea.

We needed to show our funders that we were doing something to collect data from users of our toolkit – and a solution they liked was an online survey. From my personal experience with online surveys, I find no one fills them out unless there is a prize incentive, or they tend to give you the answers you already know. But an online survey is more tangible than the vague idea of “collecting stories”. However, talking with real people in real time, and asking good questions, is what is going to get us the feedback we need to make our work better.

Instead of just intending to collect stories and hoping for the best, we should have some kind of strategy, and I think this is where our work will be as we work on getting our toolkit out into the public even more. I’m thinking the strategy will follow with one of the lessons from the Transition Launch Training about connecting with groups in your community. In the training, the exercise was to learn about other organizations in your community and rank them from 1-5, with 5 being “right on par with our mindset” to 1 being “arguing the opposite of our mindset”.

TransitionKW is already really well connected with lots of local groups (we could not have completed the toolkit without all the expertise and input of a broader network of community organizations), but we haven’t kept track of these relationships or what that has accomplished. Tracking our relationships could help us with knowing how they are changing over time, and means that we know who to go back to to ask good questions.

So what is the impact Transition is having in Kitchener-Waterloo? We don’t really know. We clearly have more reflecting to do before these strategies can be figured out and implemented. But if we can take 8 committed volunteers, a small grant, and lots of community connections and turn that into the successfulClimate Change Adaptation Toolkit in a year, I’m confident we’ll get there.

About Sylvie Spraakman

Environmental engineer, environmental activist, and community volunteer. Loves KW!
Bookmark the permalink.