On Thursday, June 16, 2016, MH convened representatives from the 28 organizations that received Heritage Grants this year. Our visitors traveled from Detroit, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Flint, Alpena, Muskegon, Holland, and more…We even had three yoopers who came all the way down from Hancock, Baraga, and Escanaba!
Over sandwiches and coffee, grantees got the chance to ask questions about the administration, reporting, and evaluation of their projects. In the process, we all learned a bit about the diverse set of programs represented in the room, as people brought up a variety of questions that highlighted the different challenges they anticipate.
After this “housekeeping” was taken care of, we moved on to discussing evaluation. With the help of Nancy Hewat (Synthesis Evaluation and Research) and Lisa Marckini-Polk (Civic Research Services), Heritage grantees learned valuable tools for evaluating the short-term and long-term impacts of their projects. They discussed how the immediate activities and outputs their projects will create might translate into longer-range impacts among the communities and organizations involved.
In small groups, grantees talked about how to apply the idea of “most significant change” as a way of evaluating project impacts. The process involves collecting short stories of change from project participants, partners, and audiences and then selecting those which seem most meaningful. To practice this method, people from each project shared insights about the effects they had already seen in the planning stages of their projects, or in the course of previous activities that overlapped with those planned for their Heritage projects.
When the larger group reconvened to share results, participants reflected on various significant changes. They ranged from forming new partnerships, to fostering feelings of purpose and a sense of responsibility around the racial equity goals of their projects. One participant shared how an exhibition of photographs of oral history interviewees, showcasing quotes from their interviews, encouraged many more people from the community to come forward and share their stories. Another wrote that “the ability to give a group of people that have been silenced for so long the opportunity to raise up their voice…reminds me of my purpose in life.” And one more described that, since they completed their initial proposal, they “realized our project isn’t simply oral history, but also has the potential for community conversations and long-term changes in attitudes and beliefs.”
It was encouraging and exciting to see the potential that all of the Heritage Grants projects have to impact local and regional communities in Michigan, to stimulate cross-cultural dialogue, and to change the lives of those who participate and contribute. To learn more about the projects, check out the resources and descriptions of each on our website here:
- Shana Melnysyn, MH Mellon Public Humanities Fellow