Back in 2004, a Resource Assessment Team came to Darby as part of a statewide effort led by Montana Economic Developers Association and several state and federal agencies and organizations, and hosted seven listening sessions, which were designed to help the residents determine the challenges, strengths and future visions for the community.
Topics like growth, housing, jobs, recreation, schools and other community issues were discussed, resources were identified and cataloged, values were identified, visions for the future were outlined.
That was some time ago. Now comes the “Ripple Effect.”
The Montana Economic Developers Association is returning to Montana with its latest Ripple Effects Mapping (REM) program. They call it “a fun and engaging evaluation activity based on storytelling” to see what might have come about or not come about after that initial assessment back in 2004. Did the Town of Darby realize any of its aims and goals? Is there still any interest in those that were not accomplished? Etc.
“When a rock is thrown into a pond it makes a splash,” said Julie Foster at the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority, “but it also sends out ripples that have a recurring effect all over the pond.” She said the REM program is an attempt to assess the results or effects of that first community assessment.
The REM team says, “The impact of community focused work is notoriously difficult to measure. Community focused programs may have immediate and direct benefits but also may have related indirect benefits beyond initial steps taken. Work done by communities like yours may have ripples of impacts that change culture, policy and people’s lives in sometimes unanticipated ways.
Ripple Effects Mapping is a way to capture all the intended and unintended benefits of programs while harvesting rich, detailed stories that illustrate those benefits.”
The team’s first activity is interviews where participants pair off and describe things that happened as a result of the Resource Team Assessment. After the interviews, things that happened are “mapped” on butcher paper on the wall. Mapping continues until the group is satisfied that the map captures everything known to have happened as a result of actions taken as a result of the assessment.
The messy hand-drawn map will be transferred to a software program and results will be organized in various ways for MEDA and community use. The resulting products can be distributed electronically and in print format and/or participants can schedule a follow-up meeting with the facilitator to discuss the results and how best to use and share them.
According to Foster, the resulting products and materials can be used in grant proposals and presentations, facilitating communication to the community and decision makers. It is an easy tool to use and with free mapping software programs out there, Ripple Effects Mapping can be used to both evaluate and plan many community programs and projects.
The meeting in Darby is scheduled for Tuesday, April 9, from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Darby Library. For information contact Julie Foster at 375-9416 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.