Hello Camp Evaluators! Spring is a busy time for camp people — with the ACA National Conference, several major regional conferences, and annual camp preparations, it is hard to believe camp people can find time to volunteer for ACA. But indeed, there are volunteers at local and national levels that give their time and expertise to our camp community over and above their many, many camp responsibilities.
While all ACA volunteers serve a critical role in our industry, a small group of volunteers CARE deeply for how camps use research and evaluation to improve programs, train staff, secure funding, and advocate for camp. This group is the Committee for the Advancement of Research and Evaluation (CARE).
CARE was established as an ACA operational committee nearly 10 years ago to support and extend ACA’s research footprint. The group meets several times each year to advise research activities, such as the Research Symposium and annual camp industry reports, to plan ways to make research and evaluation tools more accessible to camps, and to strategize collaborative opportunities that would help extend the visibility of camp among other youth development professionals.
However, despite 10 years of hard work and deep commitment to research and evaluation, CARE members continue to wrestle with one thing: How do we get research and evaluation tools into the hands of camp professionals so they use these resources in their work?
At their spring 2017 meeting, CARE members decided to tackle this question in the following ways:
- We need to better understand how camps access research and evaluation tools. CARE members Cass Morgan and Tom Akiva are starting a research project through which they can listen and learn from camps to help CARE and other camp researchers design resources that are accessible and useful to camp professionals.
- We need to leverage relationships with other prominent youth development organizations. CARE member Scott Brody will identify opportunities for CARE members to intersect with researchers and policy makers who can extend the reach and visibility of camp research.
- We need to connect meaningfully with camps through local ACA offices. CARE member Marianne Bird and CARE Chair (yes, we snicker when we say that too) Mary Rogers will connect with their Local Councils of Leaders to map out how CARE members can serve as connectors between camp research and individual camps.
- We need to better understand mental, emotional, and social health, and make a wide variety of useful research and tools available to camps. CARE member and CEO of the Association of Camp Nurses, Tracey Gaslin, will provide a valuable connection between CARE and ACA’s Healthy Camps Initiative to ensure this critical issue is addressed through research.
- We need to use research as a tool to increase access to camp for youth from marginalized communities and identify ways camps can promote equity and inclusion among campers of all backgrounds. All six CARE members committed to pursing issues of access and inclusion as a research priority and will work with the ACA community to build on the momentum that was initiated through the Camp Includes Me track at the 2017 ACA National Conference in Albuquerque.
The ACA staff research team is small (but mighty!), and we simply cannot accomplish our goals without the support and commitment of this group. ACA volunteers are the heart and soul of our work and this group in particular gives a lot with almost no recognition or tangible reward. To the current CARE group and the many CARE volunteers before you, a hearty thank you!
But CARE’s work cannot be done in the small hotel room in which we meet. We need camp evaluators — new and seasoned — to help us understand how you use (or want to use) research and evaluation. One way you can do this is by posting your questions related to research and evaluation on ACA Connect. CARE members are on standby to answer your questions and encourage you to continue building your camp’s evaluation capacity.
CARE cares about you! Please help us by posting your research and evaluation questions on ACA Connect.
Spokes of CARE-ing. Notes on how CARE will support camp research this year.
Photo of CARE members from far left: Mary Rogers, Cass Morgan, Tom Akiva, Scott Brody, Marianne Bird, and ACA Staff Laurie Browne.