Impact evaluation

After an activity is developed within the framework of civic innovation, there are a number of changes that have to do with easily quantifiable results (number of prototypes developed, participants in the activity, satisfaction of the people who have been part of it, etc.) as well as others that are more difficult to formulate numerically (personal growth, skills acquisition, empowerment of participants). Some of these changes are visible in the short-term and others in the long-term.

These changes are due in part to the activity done and in part to many other external factors: people’s living situation, the social or political context, etc.

Impact is understood to be those results that are directly attributable to the activity. In practice, it is very difficult to isolate this impact and measure it, as it is absorbed into what is caused by other factors. In general, the most rigorous way to evaluate impact is to establish control groups, something that is practically impossible to apply in most contexts in which civic innovation initiatives are developed. For example: given an initiative in a specific neighbourhood, it would be impossible to exactly replicate the situation and context in another neighbourhood of the city to establish a control group there and evaluate the difference between the two neighbourhoods after the initiative.

Civímetro is exploring evaluating the impact by means of the perception of the users who have formed part of the initiative.

Cycles of civic innovation

Civic innovation and its dynamics for experimentation is a field that has barely begun to be analysed and evaluated. We do not know what its development cycles are, but we can almost certainly assume that they will not be the same as those of a start-up or a conventional cultural institution. This limits the perspective that Civímetro can provide on a centre’s degree of development. It also limits the ability to compare the evaluation of two initiatives that are in different stages of development. As the evaluation of civic innovation becomes more mature, we will gain knowledge on this aspect, being able to identify and establish different cycles as well as the expected objectives or scope for each of them.

Status of the list of Indicators

The degree of heterogeneity of civic innovation initiatives is very high, so the proposed list of indicators is incomplete and does not cover the full spectrum of possible activities. This is about placing the first card on the table so that, on the one hand, a debate can be opened that has a base on which to build upon and, on the other hand, an opportunity is given to those who are willing to delve deeper, helping to define this list of indicators in permanent beta. We hope that this guide will be useful for the main objective of any evaluation: to measure and analyse in order to understand, learn and optimise civic innovation activities.

Positioning and subjective margin

Civímetro’s approach does not come from a neutral position. When you decide to measure something and leave other things out, we are already positioning ourselves. In our case, we start from the position that it is the ways in which civic innovation is done that provide the necessary means to reach the objectives set. In this sense, the proposed dimensions are positioning that is aimed towards specific ways of doing things. In fact, Civímetro also has the goal of evaluating these hypotheses: how and to what extent can the ways of doing things found in civic experimentation have a positive impact on people’s lives?