Evaluating value chain facilitators
Two community partners in the NESARE region are working 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 two partner organizations (one urban and one rural) are working with an evaluator trained in the Results Based Accountability framework to create metrics, collect data, test the effectiveness of the metrics, and analyze results. Metrics will be aligned with Vermont’s Farm to Plate Network goals and indicators so that data collected is relevant to that statewide effort. Results will be shared through existing networks such as Vermont Farm to Plate Network and the Value Chain Facilitation working group.
- 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.
- The evaluator will work with us and our farmer partners to create a set of indicators intended to capture the impact of our work.
- The results of the metrics work outlined in this NESARE 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.
- 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 NESARE 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 will continue 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 would like to do the same. In order to accomplish this, they would need to bring the RBA consultant to Philadelphia to train their staff in the use of RBA and then do the same work to establish and test a set of measures.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
It is proving to be a challenge to work with two small organizations at a distance from one another. Challenges include capacity levels and staff changes at both organizations in addition to the challenge posed by the distance. However, both organizations remain committed to this project and to sharing results with our partners around the country. Recent staffing changes at both organizations have made it possible to make this a priority. The completion of this project will not only strengthen these small nonprofits but provide other similar organizations with useful lessons.