Evaluating value chain facilitators

Final report for ONE14-210

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,905.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Grant Recipient: Rutland Area Farm and Food Link
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Executive Director
Rutland Area Farm and Food Link
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Project Information

Summary:

We planned to have two community partners in the Northeast region work together with an evaluator and with farmer partners to identify metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of nonprofit “value chain facilitators”. The two organizations, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link in Vermont and Fair Food in Philadelphia, have a variety of programs that link small-scale, diversified and locally-embedded farms with new market outlets and channels. In this project, the evaluator used  the  Results Based Accountability framework to create metrics, collect data, test the effectiveness of the metrics, and analyze results. We planned to have the metrics aligned with Vermont’s Farm to Plate Network goals and indicators so that data collected is relevant to that statewide effort. We were hoping to share results through existing networks such as Vermont Farm to Plate Network and the Value Chain Facilitation working group.

Project Objectives:
    1. RAFFL and Fair Food will hire an evaluator trained in Results Based Accountability to work with our two organizations to understand the methods we each use to foster market-based connections between farmers and end buyers.
    1. The evaluator will work with us and our farmer partners to create a set of indicators intended to capture the impact of our work.
    1. The results of the metrics work outlined in this Northeast SARE proposal will be shared with the Value Chain Facilitation working group to gain perspective and understanding as well as to think about next steps that will be meaningful to other organizations around the region and the country.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Ann Karlen

Research

Materials and methods:
  • In 2014, shortly after this grant was awarded, RAFFL and Fair Food worked with a consultant well-versed in evaluations and in the concepts of Value Chain Facilitation. However, after a couple of meetings and some initial work, it was determined that this was not the right consultant to help us move from our starting place to the next step.
  • In 2015, RAFFL secured funding outside of this Northeast SARE grant to hire a different evaluator to train our staff in RBA and use it to evaluate our individual programs. RAFFL was also able to begin developing a system for looking at our overarching impacts related to changing the local food system by directing more customers toward local food producers. The positive results of this work gave us confidence to introduce our partners in Philadelphia to this concept and this consultant. 
  • In 2016, RAFFL continued our work with the RBA consultant and within our staff to finalize a set of measures that provide information about our impacts as Value Chain Facilitators.
  • In 2016, Fair Food did the same by bringing a RBA consultant to Philadelphia to train their staff in the use of RBA and then did the same work to establish and test a set of measures.
Research conclusions:

RAFFL and Fair Food learned that RBA was an effective tool for putting into place measurements and practices for evaluations of our programs. We both found it to be very useful on an organizational level. We have shared our techniques with similar organizations. And, we have shared lessons learned, especially through our market building programs, with the farmers in our areas.

In the end, we were not able to devise measurements that captured the more global impacts of our organizations as a whole. We each have diverse organizations that are multifaceted. The impacts of each program could be measured, but the broader social change and secondary economic benefits proved to be too difficult to do on our own.

Fair Food brought this message to a national network they are part of and it led to the creation of a team seeking to understanding and create measurements for value chain facilitators.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

6 Consultations
26 Online trainings
1 Published press articles, newsletters

Participation Summary

6 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities
Education/outreach description:

RAFFL provided consultation on the use of Results Based Accountability and the measures RAFFL used to evaluate program effectiveness with 6 nonprofit, food and farm based organizations.  This was accomplished one-on-one with phone calls and meetings with colleagues with similar programs and missions.

Fair Food shared its learning with national partners through a newly established working group specifically formed by USDA and Wallace Foundation partners to look at the impact of value chain facilitators.

Learning Outcomes

50 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

This project was more focused on learning for the organization serving farmers. In the end, the learning outcomes were most helpful to us. However, both organizations continually provide information to farmer partners about what we are learning works. For example, RAFFL shared RBA outcomes and lessons learned with the 22 producers involved in our Farm Fresh Connect program. We also broadly shared what we learned from a survey through the Castleton Polling Institute that focused on our Locally Grown Guide. We shared info about what people were thinking and saying about local foods, their awareness, where they seek information etc. We also published our findings in the local newspaper.
Fair Food regularly shares information with their farmer partners as well.

Project Outcomes

1 New working collaboration
Project outcomes:

Impacts

RAFFL and Fair Food learned that RBA was an effective tool for putting into place measurements and practices for evaluations of our programs.  We both found it to be very useful on an organizational level. We have shared our techniques with similar organizations.  And, we have shared lessons learned, especially through our market building programs, with the farmers in our areas.

In the end, we were not able to devise measurements that captured the more global impacts of our organizations as a whole.  We each have diverse organizations that are multifaceted.  The impacts of each program could be measured, but the broader social change and secondary economic benefits proved to be too difficult to do on our own.

Fair Food brought this message to a national network they are part of and it led to the creation of a team seeking to understanding and create measurements for value chain facilitators.  

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.