A sound evaluation process is critical for the success of any sport program. However, for many organizations, this process may appear overwhelming and staff capacity may feel limited.
To help build confidence, knowledge and practical skills, Corliss Bean, Assistant Professor in Brock’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies (RECL), partnered with the Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC) on a webinar series exploring various facets of the evaluation process.
The four-part virtual series brings together panelists from academic institutions and community organizations to translate evidence-based evaluation approaches and practices in an accessible and meaningful way for stakeholders at all levels of sport in Canada.
“Evaluation is often seen as a scary word for a lot of organizations,” Bean says. “The goal of this project — both the webinar series and the toolkit collaboratively developed with SIRC — is to support sport stakeholders in making evaluation feasible and not so daunting. Participants will gain tips, tricks and resources that allow them to carry out evaluation in practical and meaningful ways.”
Veronica Allan, Manager of Research and Innovation at SIRC, also highlights the value of this knowledge translation project for the sport sector.
“Evaluation is critical for sport organizations, especially as they negotiate rapidly evolving changes during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she says. “Gathering data to better understand, adapt and improve sport programs impacted by COVID-19 is vital for their continued success.”
The webinar series is part of a larger knowledge translation project entitled “Walking the talk: Mobilizing knowledge to enhance evaluation capacity in the Canadian sport sector,” which also includes co-investigator Associate Professor Martin Camiré from the University of Ottawa’s School of Human Kinetics. The project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection Grants with additional funds from Brock’s Office of the Vice-President, Research and the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Dean’s Office.
“The title of the project says it all,” Bean says, “SIRC wanted to ‘walk the talk’ and work toward being a leader in evaluation practices within the sport sector by building their own internal evaluation capacity. As a national knowledge broker this is truly a commendable undertaking, and they have done a fabulous job doing so.”
SIRC is comprised of a committed team of professionals dedicated to advancing Canada’s sport and physical activity sector through knowledge and engagement.
According to a 2018 report prepared by the Ontario Nonprofit Network, 94 per cent of organizations are engaged in some form of evaluation, yet only 14 per cent of the organizations had a staff member dedicated to evaluation.
“Our partnership with Dr. Bean has provided tremendous benefits for SIRC and the Canadian sport sector,” says Allan. “Dr. Bean has played a key role in developing SIRC’s evaluation capacity over the past year, and through this grant, we are able to share the knowledge and skills that we have built with the broader sport community.”
One of the overarching project goals is to disseminate a series of knowledge products, including videos and blog posts, with the aim of building evaluation capacity across Canada’s sport sector.
Helping in the creation of these evidence-based products are Brock fourth-year RECL students Nicole Quinlan and Ashley Romano, alongside RECL Sessional Instructor Meghan Harlow, who created blogs based on their experiences supporting local community organizations with an evaluation project as part of their experiential education coursework.
Drawing on research evidence and their own experiences enrolled in RECL’s Program Evaluation in Professional Practice course, Quinlan and Romano wrote blogs focused on the application of course-related concepts, such as how to use movement-based approaches to engage youth in program evaluation.
“My blog details my first-hand experience conducting a program evaluation during a placement with Brock Niagara Penguins,” Quinlan says. “Every evaluation is different. I learned the concepts of ‘building it up’ and ‘knocking it down’ are important steps involved in selecting the right questions, choosing the right tools to answer those questions, and ultimately answering those questions in meaningful ways.”
Romano also gained first-hand experience conducting a program evaluation during her placement with the Bounce Back League (BBL), a nationally-run, trauma-informed sports program that aims to improve the physical and mental health of its members by combining organized sport with the power of being part of a team.
“In the BBL, evaluations are crucial to understand children’s program experiences,” Romano says. “In this context, choosing data collection methods that work for kids is just as important. My blog explores creative approaches to data collection, including movement-based methods, and offers tips and tricks for implementing movement-based methods with children.”
These blogs highlight samples of knowledge products created to be a part of the “Toolkit: Mastering the Art of Evaluation.” The kit’s final pieces — short, illustrated videos that share main messages from each of the webinars — are still in development.
“Evaluation is so important now more than ever given the changing times we’re navigating,” Bean says. “Sport stakeholders have been working hard to pivot and adapt program goals and delivery to meet public health guidelines or transition to virtual or socially-distanced settings. Because of these adaptations, it is critical to make time to ask important questions to understand what’s working and what’s not, whether we’re meeting the needs of our clients, and so on.”
For more information or to view recordings of previous webinars, visit the SIRC website here.
Upcoming webinars include:
- Put your learnings into practice: Learning from and communicating evaluation findings on Wednesday, June 2 at 1 p.m. The webinar will be presented in English with simultaneous translation into French. Register here.
- Partnerships in action: How research-to-practice partnerships are making a difference on Wednesday, June 23 at 1 p.m. The webinar will be presented in French with simultaneous translation into English. Register here.