Quantifying Change and Assessing Impact
Building upon the experience of previous seasons, one of the key issues we wanted to address in 2016 was how to go about quantifying change and understanding what kind of impact the Common Ground Initiative has had. Since the inception of SHARE's field projects, we have conducted entry and exit interviews with each participant and have used this feedback to improve our programs and approach. This was our second year using a daily journal as part of our curriculum. We asked participants to share their daily thoughts and reflections in the journals, as well as to write about their experiences at the end of the season. While some activities were more popular than others, and the inherent nature of the program can be trying at times, the vast majority of responses were overwhelmingly positive. Here is a selection of participant reflections from this season and seasons past:
"It was a perfect challenge: I got to learn about beautiful and new things, and got to know
beautiful and new people."
" Today I explored parts of my own city that
I've never seen before, and I did it with
new people I liked very much"
" It was a really fun and exciting program- we learned so many new things! I am very
happy that I was part of the group."
" I loved everything! I love to excavate and to see all my friends from last year, and to make new friends this year! I can't wait to do it again next year! "
"Without SHARE, I never would have learned as much about the history of the Old City of Akko
as I have over the last three years of participating
in this program."
“At first I was afraid to walk in the old city by myself- I was brought up to believe that Muslims and Arabs were bad people who wished me nothing but harm. But now, as a result of this program, I know that is not the case.
I have made many new friends in the old city,
and I’m not afraid to go there anymore.”
While testimonials provide valuable insights into personal experiences, they can be hard to quantify when trying to assess degrees of overall change. For this reason, we have continued to use analytics along with interviews and reflections in order to assess the impact of our programs. A method that we again employed this year is interaction network mapping, in which we ask participants to map the strength of their interactions with other participants over the course of the program. Participants draw connections between their name and the names of others using solid lines, dotted lines, or no lines at all depending on the frequency and strength of their interactions. This method allows us to actually see change over time when the exercise is carried out at different points during the season. Comparing before and after results from this season and seasons past reveals a net increase in total interactions ranging from 20-80% and an increase in interactions with members from the opposite group ranging from 20-60%. These numbers are most encouraging, and when paired with the testimonials above, make a powerful case for the efficacy of the initiative and its programing.
In conversations with other volunteers, sometimes I encountered perspectives that were contrary to or that challenged my own, but I felt free to express my point of view and have a conversation about our disagreements … I was able to break down some previous prejudices I had of Israelis, especially after becoming friends with E., one of the Israeli participants.