Last week the CHRN launched our Leadership Academy in Program Evaluation. We brought together service providers and administrators from more than 15 homeless-serving agencies from across Canada. The idea was to begin a year long process of building capacity within the homelessness sector to conduct program evaluation that is meaningful to agencies and their clients, rather than an activity that simply responds to the demands from funders.        

This Leadership Academy began with a two and a half day conference / workshop held at York University in Toronto.  We had a great panel of presenters, including Michaela Hynie of York University, Stephanie Baker-Collins of McMaster, Jennie Vengris from Hamilton SPRC, Marylin Dyck from the Doorway in Calgary, Diane Dyson from Woodgreen in Toronto, and Audrey Cole and Ashley Lacome-Duncan from the Paloma Foundation.  I also presented a few sessions.

Our goals for the event included:

  1. Providing people with an understanding of basic concepts in program evaluation, tailored to concerns and issues found in the homelessness sector.  We introduced participants to some key examples, including the Outcomes Star from the UK, and the Paloma -Wellesley Guide to Participatory Program Evaluation;

  2. Having each agency leave with an action plan to help them move forward with program evaluation;

  3. Finally, we wanted to establish a learning community to carry this work forward in the coming year.  Establish is probably not the right word.  We are building on the amazing work of Eva's Initiatives, which has already nurtured the development of a vibrant learning community amongst agencies working with street youth across Canada.  The majority of attendees at our Leadership Academy were from Eva's Learning Community, with a few other additions.

We’re calling this a Learning Academy, because the 2.5 day event was only the beginning. Over the coming year, the agencies, will continue their work supported by the learning community, the Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN), and York University. We feel this is a much better way to support learning and the application of this new knowledge.

Through the CHRN, and in partnership with York University, the Faculty of Education and the York Institute for Health Research, we are beginning to develop a fully fledged certificate course in program evaluation, that will have a strong web-based component, so stay tuned for developments on this.

My final comments have to do with the success of the event: It was incredible to have in one room such amazing talent, knowledge and experience.  The conversations that took place were the major highlight for me.  This is an amazing group of people who through their work demonstrate their commitment to ending homelessness in Canada. We hope that the Leadership Academy in Program Evaluation will help people working in this field to not only improve upon their work, but to make their work visible to others, and to really contribute to good solutions to the problem of homelessness.  More to come on this one…

Until then, here are some photos from the event...

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Stephen GaetzProfessor & Director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness/Homeless HubYork University