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Community of Results

Form an action-learning cohort of Community-Based Innovators using “complexity aware” evaluation for their own work who create a fieldguide

Photo of Simone Poutnik

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What a tumultuous time on the planet! In our communities, people are experiencing what happens when the old social and economic systems just don’t work anymore. New Stories, a nonprofit corporation established in 2000 and based outside of Seattle, WA, works with a range of people and organizations around the world who are building healthy, resilient communities. We are community-based innovators, doing local work, and connecting translocally to support and strengthen our efforts. Since last year NewStories has been in a number of conversations talking with those in our networks about coming together to develop more disciplined and rigorous approaches to evaluating and communicating the results of our work. In those conversations we realized that we wanted to form a Community of Results -- not just a Community of Practice.

A little over two weeks ago we discovered this IDEO challenge and in kicked our efforts into even higher gear, in part because we saw many offering their ideas on this platform who also seemed like potential participants in this Community of Results.

We are of a growing a Community of Results with participants from North America and around the world.


In the last week we’ve reached out to many of our colleagues about the idea offered here. You’ll see video clips from these conversations at the top of this idea. Those we’ve talked to and recorded include:

  • Maaianne Knuth and Jackie Cahi, Kufunda Learning Village (Zimbabwe)

  • Mike Brumage, MD, Director, Kanawha/Charleston WV Regional Health District (US)
  • Jessica Jensen, Outreach Coordinator, New Mexico Health Equity Partnerships (US)
  • Ben Roberts and Leslie Meehan, Stewards, Thriving Resilient Communities Collaboratory (US)
  • Carolyne Stanton, Executive Director Transition US and Tom Llewellyn, Director, Sharable (US)
  • Takahiko Nomura, FutureSessions, Inc (Japan)
  • Dorah Lebelo Marema, Johannesburg GreenHouse Project (South Africa)

  • Vanessa LeBourdais, Executive Producer&Creative Director, DreamRider Productions (Canada)

  • Our colleagues from the Living Wholeness Institute in Greece, the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, and Post Carbon Institute based in the US have all voiced their support and interest in involvement -- but we’ve not been able to do videos with them.

NewStories video partners are on the road this week, so these are rough -- but they give an idea of the enthusiasm for a Community of Results. 

NewStories and our colleagues are doing work that engages others in creating sustainable replacements for the collapsing social, environmental, political, food/resource and economic systems. Like many who responded with great ideas to this IDEO challenge, the organizations we’ve reached out to use participatory approaches in the complex intersections of peace, prosperity and planet at the local level. We call ourselves Community-Based Innovators (CBIs), and what we have in common is that—while the old is breaking up and the new is not yet here, and even though we can’t see the future – we begin anyway. This idea will help us to become, in fact, a Community of Results.

As Community Based Innovators, we don’t give up, nor do we simply cope with the collapse with band-aids and emergency responses. We work with curiosity, respect and generosity to reimagine and then co-create human lives and human settlements where we prosper as part of our lovely planet -- not apart from it.

Even as eternally optimistic innovators, we often find ourselves despairing and burning out because belief in what we do is not enough. We actually need to know that our work has results. Not only because our funders are asking us to prove that what we do has impact, but because in order to go on, we need to see that we are making a difference. We must see the difference we are making and courageously, honestly and rigorously check to make sure that we are having the difference that we hope for.

We must continually improve our practices, amplifying what’s working and letting go of what’s not. We need a clearer focus on results. It is time to form a Community of Results.

Explain your idea

NewStories will form and support a new Community of Results (COR), beginning with this challenge grant. With this grant we will produce and apply a tested fieldbook of complexity aware evaluation approaches and website with an experienced cohort who have gone through a 9 month action-learning process and are ready to support others. We will ● Invite, organize and host an action learning cohort of Community-Based innovators (CBIs) to explore and build capacity to use narrative-based complexity-aware evaluation approaches to pause, document, evaluate and share results; the cohort will include those already connected to NewStories, and others from this IDEO challenge. ● Share our learning and support each other as we experiment with and integrate these models to each construct our own contextualized approaches to documenting and communicating results. ● Based on these experiences, create and publish a fieldbook for others to use as they commit to measuring their results. We will create a toolkit and make it available under a creative commons license and a website to support a growing COR. ● Use the same complexity-aware approaches with this COR process itself and to compile results documented by all the members of the COR so that we can explore commonalities, variations and patterns of collective impact of Community-Based Innovation. Together participants in the NewStories web and others from this IDEO challenge – will become a “Community of Results” that is committed to rigorously and critically learning about the results of our work, and applying what we learn to increase our effectiveness, and to share what we are learning with each other. When it comes to evaluation, CBIs often don’t use the traditional models because those approaches rarely work with emergence. But, often, we don’t use other approaches either – not because they don’t exist, but because we haven’t had the time, guidance, mentorship, or access to models of measurement and evaluation that are designed for complexity and emergence. As we have recently begun discovering together, substantial progress has been made in the last couple of decades to develop and apply new ways of evaluating results in situations that are highly complex. In communities like ours that are challenged by the intersecting issues, control over variables is impossible, cause-effect relationships are unpredictable, multi-directional and poorly understood. Trying to identify what will happen in advance is not only pointless but can blind us to what we need to pay attention to. “Complexity-aware” approaches like Developmental Evaluation, Most Significant Change, and Outcome Harvesting are designed to illuminate and support innovation without constraints of traditional evaluation that require controlled and standardized processes and predetermined outcomes. We are excited to use approaches, but still face barriers to truly understanding and learning to use them.

Who Benefits?

We could be pretty global and say that everyone touched by the initiatives of these Community-Based Innovators benefits, but while true, that would be disingenuous and start to sound like a logic model. Who really benefits directly? The people who have dedicated their lives (and foregone making fortunes) to making things better for their communities, their friends and families and themselves. We will limit this cohort to 20 members and they will directly benefit. The Fieldbook will be widely distributed. TransitionUS and Shareable, alone, reach more than 300K with materials they distribute. The CBIs in the cohort, and those we invite into the COR later will begin to see patterns of results that emanate from the generative, collaborative approaches they have in common and will be able to amplify those results at the local level.

How is your idea unique?

Likely cohort members work on multiple projects in many communities. Many are grassroots activists, organizers and innovators don't had access to complexity-aware monitoring and evaluation approaches. What’s unique is that we will work together to understand, use and share new approaches to evaluation with others that we know work. We’re frustrated by expectations to use evaluation and impact measurement with a “logic model” to describe step-by-step, measurable inputs and activities, and pre-determined long and short-term outcomes. Logic models are useful when working towards known outcomes in a predictable future, but are of dubious value when working with an emergent future. Good evaluation doesn't require logic models; we can measure results in other ways. Evaluation explores the worth of a practice. It looks at results, examines what caused them, and judges the value of those results. Openness to the emergence of both unanticipated events and unexpected outcomes is critical.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Tell us more about you

From the NewStories team, Bob Stilger, Simone Poutnik and Yve Susskind will organize and facilitate the Community Of Results. Bob and Simone have extensive experience with communities and groups using emergent and co-creative processes. Yve combines similar experience and is a developmental evaluation specialist who has worked as the evaluation consultant on a wide number of ventures. NewStories is an educational nonprofit based in Washington State, US. Our purpose is to help people, organizations, communities and systems navigate the tides of change towards well-being, compassion and deep collaboration. We are in a time of immense change. Some call it the Great Transition or the Great Turning. Our future is becoming increasingly unpredictable as systems fall apart. The old is breaking up and the new is not yet here. As we wander in the messy middle, how do we find our way? Where do we point our compass? When we can’t see the future, where do we begin? And what skills do we need to help us travel safely through uncharted and turbulent waters? Our work is to support and guide people in this great transition of our culture from one paradigm to another. Created in 2000 around the belief that it was time for new stories about how we can live on this planet, it was clear to us that our old stories no longer worked and that we lived in that moment when an old era was coming to an end, but a new one is not yet born. Together, people all around the world are giving birth to this new era through our stories. Stories connect us and help us make sense and find meaning. Our core work as an organization is to Name, Connect, Nourish and Illuminate the emergence of this new era. It is happening in Cabin Creek in West Virginia where coal miners are figuring out how to look after their health -- because no one else is going to do it. It happens in Zimbabwe where communities work with what they have to build the future they want. It happens in Japan where people have learned to stand up and stand together after the destruction of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear radiation in the disasters of three years ago. NewStories works closely with the people involved in these initiatives and more. We are based on Whidbey Island off the coast of Seattle, WA. Our only staff is a part-time bookkeeper. We're a scrappy organization that provides a platform for people to do the work they are called to while figuring out how to make a living while making a difference. Our founder and Co-President, Bob Stilger spent 25 years doing local community building work in Spokane, WA before leaving to establish NewStories. He spent the first ten years of this century mostly working in the global south where people were build community with what they had and then carried their wisdom to Japan where his work for the last six years has been helping people discover and co-create the invisible future on the other side of disaster.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.
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Team (2)

Simone's profile
Yve's profile

Role added on team:

"I'm the person who has spent many years annoyed and frustrated by old, traditional approaches to evaluation that just don't work for the work many of us are doing. I've become a specialist in helping others use these important complexity aware approaches."


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Simone!

Thank you for posting.

Ashley Tillman - I would like you to take a look at this project.

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Simone, thank you for sharing! It's a very interesting concept to re-define impact measurement, this is a huge undertaking and would love to understand some more specifics around:

1) 1-2 sentences on exactly what you do and more detail on your 9-month action-learning cohort -who is the program for, how do you measure program success, etc..?

2) Can you break down concretely how the work on this specific project relates to peace, prosperity and planet?

One last item, here at OpenIDEO, we think that visualizing your ideas is a significant step in engaging others and to get others onboard to collaborate as you develop it further. Here's a resource if you are looking for some inspiration:

Photo of Bob Stilger

Hey Ashley. Lots of updates in the description today -- and visuals. We're taking this out to a range of people we are already working with around the world and in the US to talk with them about the idea and their interest. We'll be using our dialog with them to fine tune responses to your 2 questions. Also, we'll be doing video clips with them about why this would be useful to them which we'll include.

One further note, our three person team is finding it very interesting to work in this interactive environment you've created. I've scanned and deleted e-mails form OpenIdeo for a long time. Excited to be engaging in this process. Even if we don't emerge at the other end with funding from you, this is helping is evolve and envision an idea we've been working on for several months. Thanks!

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Bob, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about your work thanks for all the great details! Let me know if you have any questions as well!

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