TOPIC 3: Tools and methods of evaluation

TOPIC 3: Tools and methods of evaluation

Community gardens have become essential spaces that foster social connections, promote sustainable food production, and enhance the overall well-being of communities. These shared spaces offer individuals the opportunity to engage in collaborative gardening, learn about agriculture, and contribute to a healthier environment. However, for community gardens to thrive and continuously evolve, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of feedback and retroactivity within these projects. Feedback loops and retroactive processes enable community garden organizers and participants to learn from past experiences, make informed decisions, and create sustainable, resilient garden ecosystems. There are methods and tools that can be used online, face-to-face or even in hybrid mode, according to the needs.

1) Surveys and Questionnaires directly at the end of the activities

Gathering feedback through face-to-face surveys and questionnaires allows participants, volunteers, and visitors to express their experiences and perceived benefits and impact of the activity, as well as how it could be improved. If they are printed, the questionnaires allow each participant to an activity to focus and think at her/his own rhythm. It is recommended to do the evaluation at the end of the event to keep the memory fresh and to ensure that you have the highest number of responses, instead of people forgetting to answer.

Illustration: Example of feedback method
Credits: @Mohamed Hassan (Creative commons)

2) Interviews and focus groups

Conducting face-to-face interviews enables evaluators to delve deeper into participants’ motivations and feelings, providing valuable qualitative insights, while face-to-face focus groups can foster and emulate interactive discussions among participants, offering deeper insights into community perceptions and needs related to the garden. It is necessary to have guidelines and a script, with a list of questions, but don’t follow strictly what was planned: in the same answer, it is very possible that various questions or topics are tackled. You need to adapt yourself to the answers to avoid looking too cold and not flexible.

3) Observational Studies by external experts

Directly observing outdoor activities and interactions within the community garden provides a comprehensive understanding of how the activity was perceived by the participants, how they think the space of the community garden is used, what went well, what could be improved, with an open window to comments. If the observation is made by people external to the garden, it can reinforce the quality and objectivity of the analysis. They can be trainers, experts, come from universities, etc.

Credits: Pistes-Solidaires

4)  Online Surveys and Questionnaires

The use of online platforms like Google Forms, SurveyMonkey facilitates data collection from a broader audience in a convenient and efficient manner. They are accessible at any time or from any place (even if some restrictions can apply). If you want gamified feedbacks, you can create forms on Kahoot, that allows the participants to answer with their phone with an access code to the specific questionnaire you created. Platforms such as Mentimeter allow to gather online data when submitting the questions to an audience that can be totally in presential mode or in an hybrid mode. They allow online data visualization such as clouds of words, that can be later easily integrated, for example, in an activity report and represent in a clear and easily understandable way the perspective of the participants to an activity.

Credits: Rob Lancaster on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation

Sources and resources

Google Forms : Visited on 21/07/2023

Mentimeter : Visited on 21/07/2023

Kahoot : Visited on 21/07/2023

Survey Monkey : Visited on 21/07/2023