Clearsky Retreat Centre, a social enteprise in British Columbia's beautiful Kootenays region, recently developed a performance snapshot of the centre's grassland restoration project. You can see there snapshot here I recently received a review of their experience in using DV tools from Catherine Pawasarat, which is printed below.
For more information about this inspiring centre, follow this link: Clearsky Retreat Centre.
Training in Demonstrating Value: A Review
By Catherine Pawasarat
Chief Visionary Officer, Clear Sky Retreat Centre
I first heard about Demonstrating Value from Trail, BC-based Michele Cherot, a truly talented woman who contracts for Enterprising Non Profits; she's mentored many of us at our retreat centre Clear Sky (clearskycenter.org) in a number of org-development practices through ENP grants we were awarded. She intuited that we’d find it useful, and gave us a crash course in DV over a few hours. To be honest it sounded like a good idea at the time, but as someone who doesn't have a lot of experience with metrics, it felt beyond what I could undertake.
And as a retreat centre that's also a social enterprise, we struggle a lot with expressing the (enormous) value of things that don't show up on spreadsheets. How to demonstrate value is a theme that is always coming up for us.
So when my friends Steve Williams and Garth Yule did a workshop on Demonstrating Value at the Social Venture Institute, I attended, and they gave a very good feeling for its strong potential. There's a learning curve for sure, and so I continued to talk to them about it on occasion, and started checking the website (demonstratingvalue.org) to get a better handle on it. I talked to Michele Cherot again and she let me know that there might be funding for some training on it, so we jumped at the opportunity.
Subsequently two colleagues/friends and I took a 1.5 day intensive workshop with Michele, generously sponsored by the VanCity Community Foundation and ENP.
We decided to focus on a grasslands restoration education project (http://bit.ly/1lwfkAO) I'd spearheaded. We did this for several reasons: to inject the project with some fresh energy; to review it through a new lens; to start exploring DV with a relatively small project (vs. our entire centre or all its activities); and lastly because BC's Lieutenant General -- a grasslands conservationist/expert -- was coming to visit Clear Sky, and we wanted to share info about our project with her and the sustainable land-use stakeholders we invited for her visit. Perhaps most of all, our grasslands restoration education project has accomplished all sorts of amazing things but generating lots of surplus revenue is not really one of them, so it seemed an ideal DV candidate.
The training was an intensive couple of days during which we worked through some worksheets with Michele. The worksheets compelled us to answer some challenging questions about who our audience for the snapshot was, what they wanted to know, what we wanted to show them, and how we could effectively share this information. For us this was somewhat painful, and extremely useful.
The worksheets also helped us clarify program goals, and how we could identify whether or to what extent these goals had been achieved. These questions were designed to help us craft a DV snapshot that could also be useful as a planning and decision-making tool. Being able to feed several birds with one hand appeals to us enormously, and has also become a requirement with our typically full lives with competition for resources. Big kudos to whoever developed this feature of DV, to both demonstrate value and be a planning and decision-making tool. I can’t tell you how helpful this is.
As mentioned, this entire process was somewhat grueling for us. We were also really pleased to be able to spend so much quality time together discussing important things, and reviewing and evaluating. At Clear Sky, we often get so caught up in doing the next thing that we don't take the time to review this very important part of the cycle. Michele Cherot provided excellent feedback from a more objective perspective.
This DV process also gave us a new appreciation for how the nuts and bolts of good planning help ensure success. We felt it was so beneficial that we could 'plan' in retrospect and reap excellent perspectives, and also be placed in an excellent position for moving forward.
At the end of the second day we produced a draft DV snapshot. Over the summer we revisited it four times or so and kept revising it, till we had the final version we wanted in time for the Lieutenant Governor's visit to Clear Sky. It felt very satisfying to be able to hand the snapshot out to people who attended her visit – we presented most of the info during the L-G's visit but having something to hold and look at and take away seemed to please people, and generally, people seemed to like it as a tool. We sure do.
Happy to answer any additional questions on this: firstname.lastname@example.org.