Research 360: Into the Center of the Circle

October 4, 2016
Laurie Browne, PhD

If you’ve been following these posts you might be familiar with the two facets of Research 360:  ACA’s new full circle approach to research and evaluation. Quick review:  we have the outer circle, which represents the 360 degree process that ACA’s 5-year research project will follow, and the center, the local camp research and evaluation efforts, around which this process moves. 

Our last post focused on the outer circle by introducing the Research Advisory Group who will provide support and guidance for the 5-year study.  That was Part 1 of our “Cast of Characters” series; Part 2, which will introduce the Research Team selected to conduct the study, will come in our next post.  In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at the center of the circle, which represents the many ways local camps engage in research and evaluation to improve their programs, increase enrollment, and advocate for camp to their stakeholders.   

It’s All About Local

Local is the word we use to differentiate the individual camp from the camp industry as a whole.  Local camp research and evaluation efforts are at the center of Research 360 because these efforts drive us to  continuously improve the camp experience.  Key to this idea is that local camps engage in research and evaluation in ways that are relevant to their families, staff, and their unique camp culture. 

One camp might be using the YOB to collect outcomes data for a grant application; another camp might survey parents to explore their satisfaction with the program.  For yet another camp, research and evaluation might be part of a long term plan, but simply too challenging to take on right now.   Every camp has a unique set of circumstances, and unique set of research and evaluation needs.

AKA Evaluation Capacity

The central focus of Research 360 is to support local camps’ efforts in ways that are relevant and sustainable to their specific situation. One way to think of this approach is in terms of building evaluation capacity.  Evaluation capacity, for local camps, includes the resources and knowledge they have and use to engage in evaluation.  Capacity also includes the camp’s culture of evaluation- the expectations and practices that either support or prevent the effective use of evaluation to continuously improve their programs. 

Curious about your camp’s evaluation capacity? Here is a tool you can use to think about your camp’s evaluation capacity, and here are some ways you can build your camp’s evaluation capacity.

How Research 360 Can Help

Although it is ultimately up to local camps to build their evaluation capacity, Research 360 is designed to help.  First, we are beginning to explore how camp professionals use research and evaluation in order to better support local camps with ACA research resources and professional development.  Additionally, we are working to expand and improve existing tools, such as YOB 2.0.

I mention YOB 2.0  specifically, because it is time to start your YOB 2.0 subscription!  This online tool is an excellent way to build your evaluation capacity, because it makes administering surveys and analyzing your results quick and easy.  Surveys are customizable so you can explore what you are most interested in learning about your campers and programs. A one-year subscription costs only $75.  Don’t have the capacity to design and use YOB 2.0?  Consider using ACA Research Consulting services for help setting up your survey (we can even help create a survey you can email to campers or parents) and analyzing your results. Contact us to learn more about ACA consulting services. I hope that these types of resources get you started on increasing your evaluation capacity!

 

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