The Contemporary Austin
Evaluation Capacity Building

The Contemporary Austin contracted RK&A to guide evaluation capacity building for staff concerning the museum’s teen programs.  The goals of the project were to unite TCA staff around clarifying impact and outcomes for teens and developing a plan for staff to evaluate teen programs. 

How did we approach this project?

RK&A facilitated two workshops to help TCA articulate the impact they aspire to achieve with teen program audiences.  The workshops intentionally included TCA staff, Teen Council members, and artist mentors because the museum values teen voices and mentors’ leadership in its programs.  The topic of the first workshop was Clarifying Intended Impact, in which we explored the question “To what end does TCA carry out its work on teen programs?”  Through pre-assigned readings, presentations, facilitated discussions, and group exercises, we discussed individual passions of staff and teens, identified the programs’ unique value, and envisioned impact for four distinct teen program audiences.  We synthesized staff members’ responses and prepared a Learning Report that included a draft intended impact statement and outcomes for each audience.  In the second workshop, Developing Outcomes and Indicators, we worked from the draft impact statement to probe staff and teens to further clarify and prioritize the outcomes.  Then we helped staff translate outcomes into concrete, measurable indicators.  The resulting Impact Framework laid the foundation for outcomes-driven evaluation of teen programs. 

Based on the impact framework, RK&A developed a series of instruments (interview guides, rubrics, and questionnaires) and protocols for TCA to use to evaluate each audience over the course of the 2016-2017 year.  The instruments were intended to gauge audiences’ experiences in a variety of teen programs, including Teen Council, Young Artists, and Teen Artist + Mentor.  RK&A developed all instruments and mentored TCA in implementing evaluation of teen program audiences through ongoing momentum calls.  

What did we learn?

Intended impact for the teen programs is expressed through a one-sentence statement: Teens build a community that strengthens and inspires their creative expression, propensity for risk-taking, and critical engagement with art and contemporary ideas.  The Impact Framework, with supporting audience outcomes and indicators, provided the platform for developing and implementing the Evaluation Plan.   

Through the capacity building process, TCA staff realized the value of clearly articulating what they want to achieve through their teen programs.  Even though the outcomes were living in their minds, saying them aloud and clarifying their thoughts through discussion was an invaluable process.  Having teens participate in the workshops strengthened the museum’s commitment to listening to teens by incorporating them into a concrete planning document. 

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Photo by Brian Fitzsimmons