The Collective’s Position on Performance Evaluation of CBPS Organizations
As public support grows for community based public safety (CBPS) work, there is more discussion of the importance of evaluating the impact of these organizations, especially organizations that are in their infancy and/or under-resourced.
The appropriateness of conducting an outcome evaluation of a CBPS organization depends on a very wide range of factors, including the resources the organization is given, the data tracking capability they are supplied with and what measurements are being used for the evaluation. We have heard reports of organizations not being paid on time by their public and private funders while also being subject to evaluation requirements. We have also received reports of organizations that have never received any funding being told they need an evaluation before they can be supported. Organizations must be able to pay their staff and provide full compensation packages in order to do their work well.
Under-resourced organizations operating in an environment with inadequate wrap-around services cannot and should not be evaluated simply on reductions in homicides and shootings. These groups are doing valuable work and should be recognized for what they are doing, not penalized for failing to meet unrealistic expectations which are typically coming from a very different perspective than their on-the-ground operations provide. Community based public safety is a collective approach to safety. The sole responsibility for homicide and shooting reductions cannot fall solely to these groups.
If measurements of effectiveness are considered important, funders must fund the research separately, not take it away from underfunded organizations or governmental Offices of Violence Prevention (OVPs). For example, Los Angeles devotes $1 million –separate from their gang prevention and intervention (GRYD) budget– just for evaluation. Offices of Violence Prevention and intervention organizations are already being asked to do “champagne work on a beer budget” and adding unreasonable, unrealistic evaluation requirements will further undermine the work.
Cultural and social responsiveness is key. It is not enough to say there should be research, evaluation and accountability; it has to be the right kind of research and evaluation: community based, participatory and offering meaningful outcomes determined by and reflecting the needs of the community being served. Anything less than this perpetuates structural violence against Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities.This approach is complex and necessitates separate funding for evaluation, and engagement with university and/or community-based partners who are knowledgeable about the nuances of community intervention work.
Finally, evaluation should not just rely on crime statistics. Statistics only measure part of the issue. Soliciting community input through surveys and interviews is critical for informing context for the data. For example, a rise in homicide or shootings in a specific area may be a result of economic changes in a neighborhood, the closing of a school or neighborhood center, gentrification or community relationships. More appropriate measurements include surveys of residents and stakeholders on their perceptions of neighborhood safety, accounts of the practitioners, school attendance statistics, community event statistics and hospital shooting patient data.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to The Collective with any questions or to learn more about effective and meaningful evaluations of this important work.