Deepening Partnerships for Greater Impact

Storyteller:

Sheena Moya Chen
Resident Support Coordinator Creditvale Mills Community Wellness Hub
Storyteller's Picture

The Creditvale Mills Community Wellness Hub works with partners to provide services that support its tenants and local community. The 12 partner agencies who are part of the hub serve a range of populations including youth, seniors, people living with chronic illness, housing operations, funders and care navigation.

According to their coordinator, Sheena Moya Chen, a major focus over the past year has been to develop a solid framework for their hub model. With the support of their planning and governance committees, they completed a strategic plan refresh with the help of Peel Leadership Centre in January. Sheena says the focus of the work has been about navigating relationships and aligning priorities. “Each of the partners have to see value in what they’re doing. There is no hierarchy here as there is with a traditional board.”

Being involved in evaluation planning was not new for Sheena, who has led evaluations at other nonprofit organizations and understands the benefits. “Evaluation is important in order to know that you’re having an impact; it’s not just for funders. As a sector, we need to learn this.”

Sheena notes that collaboratives have different needs than organizations and this affects how they would go about developing an evaluation plan. The PREP team began their work with the Hub by meeting with the steering committee to learn more about how the collaborative worked. Sheena outlined their preliminary interest in planning for evaluation in the following way, “We want to be able to report on the right things – for our funders, for our residents. We want to be able to fine tune our processes on top of that.”

After PREP’s initial assessment, it was agreed that PREP and the Hub, through Sheena and an evaluation sub-committee, co-create an evaluation framework that would highlight the evaluation questions of interest to the collaborative. A partnership survey was the next order of business with the goal to align partners on the overall aims of the collective and to seek input on the development of performance indicators that all partners would agree to collect and share. “The partnership survey,” says Sheena, “will be a way for partners to tell us how they’re benefiting from being a part of the Hub and if they see the fit. It’s important to figure out,” she adds, “because all partners have a different mandate.”

While assessing Hub partnerships will be an important factor in enabling their growth, conversations between PREP and the steering committee resulted in the understanding that the evaluation plan needs to include a client survey which will help them focus on their most important aim, namely the support and programming they offer to residents and program participants. She says, “With a plan for evaluation we will be able to demonstrate our impact – how our clients are accessing our services and how it impacts them.”

In addition to the tools for evaluation that are available to be implemented, Sheena explained that for her there was also value in the one-to-one aspect of her experience with PREP.  She appreciated being able to draw upon evaluation knowledge and experience specific to the nonprofit context. For her, it meant there was an understanding of the importance of what she and the collective are trying to do. “It’s great to work with people with evaluation knowledge as they are also able to draw from their wealth of professional experiences. You get the double benefit when you connect with people’s experience. For the PREP team to make time for mentorship conversations, it meant we were able to benefit from more than just what was in the scope of work. The mentoring and coaching were so valuable.”

Sheena considers the evaluation planning as part of a broader set of strategic activities the Hub is working on that will help to position it for success. “Working with PLC has enabled us to successfully apply for a grant specifically geared to support hub models.” With this grant money, they intend to explore sustainability and learn if their structure is the one that is best for what they want to achieve. “I don’t think our application would have been as strong without the help we received from Peel Leadership Centre and PREP.”

Upon reflecting on the overall experience of working with PREP, Sheena says, “We now have tools. We have a plan for our partners to collect the data. We can aggregate it and report on outcomes. They will help us learn how we can do things in a better way.”

Did PREP help Sheena develop her capacity in evaluation? She replies, “I knew about evaluation but with this I got to develop my skills in a different direction.”

Sheena is passionate in her work to showcase the Creditvale Mills Community Wellness Hub as more than a space for programming but as a place where residents’ lives are strengthened as the result of collective community building. Her drive to have a comprehensive evaluation plan in place which will guide future efforts is testament to this. “We’re organized now and we want to make sure everyone is invested. We want to see that everyone is energized to be here.”