POWER Initiative Evaluation: The POWER of Change

Author(s): Molly Chamberlin, Ph.D. and Nicole Dunn, M.P.A
Author Organization(s): Chamberlin Dunn LLC

Stories of Results for Individuals, Businesses, and Communities

ARC has worked with Chamberlin/Dunn (C/D) as a third-party evaluator since Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 to understand the successes and challenges POWER grantees have experienced in the implementation of their grants, as well as early impacts of the projects. In FY21, the team collaborated with ARC staff to pilot a form of participatory evaluation and monitoring, Most Significant Change (MSC). Through this process, evaluators solicited Stories of Change from POWER grantees and partners. POWER stakeholders submitted 72 stories representing 44 unique projects. These stories were funneled through two phases of review by fellow POWER grantees and partners (Phase I) and by ARC staff and state program managers (Phase II), which led to the selection of seven stories that reviewers felt represented the “most significant change” resulting from POWER. The selected stories are featured in this evaluation report, and the story review process was analyzed to synthesize themes around types of change POWER stakeholders appear to value most.

This analysis showed that POWER’s stakeholders appear to be working toward economic transformation by striving for change at multiple levels simultaneously: change at the individual, organization/business, and region/community levels. Clear themes emerged regarding change at each level. At the individual level, themes that resonated with reviewers included providing job and career opportunities, skill-building, and support for recovery from substance use disorder. At the business/organization level, themes included helping businesses increase revenue or decrease costs, improving an organization’s ability to meet the needs of employers in the community, and organizational skill-building to ensure businesses were effective and resilient. At the community/region-level, themes included supporting economic diversification, improving quality of place, and increased collaboration and regional focus.

In addition, evaluators examined the preliminary outputs and outcomes of 131 recently closed projects. While grantees have up to three years after project close to achieve targets; collectively, grantees with closed projects have already exceeded many cumulative (initiative-level) targets. In FY22, the evaluation will examine the extent to which closed projects have achieved intended outputs and outcomes after close, achieved other unintended results, and reached traditionally underserved communities or otherwise advanced equity. The evaluation team will also work with ARC staff to integrate evaluation findings into POWER’s strategy for future years.