clear How Can the Cleanup Be Evaluated?

Evaluating your project can help you learn whether it has met its goals, but only if you decide up front what you want to evaluate and how you will go about doing so. The purpose of conducting any evaluation is "to answer practical questions of decision-makers and program implementors who want to know whether to continue a program, extend it to other sites, modify it, or close it down."1 You will want to be able to show that your community cleanup does one or all of the following:

bullet Improves the appearance of an area that was previously neglected, abandoned, vandalized, or misused.
bullet Allows community members to use and enjoy the improved area more than they did before the cleanup.
bullet Strengthens the community ties of those involved in the cleanup.

The best way to start evaluating your project is to reflect on your original goals. First, look at the immediate results. Are all the trees trimmed? Is all the trash removed? Is all the playground equipment in good condition? Second, see whether the space is now being used. Do parents bring their small children out to play on the cleaned-up sidewalks? Do kids now play ball on the field? Third, see whether the results stand the test of time. Periodically check the site in the months after your cleanup. Is it still clean? Has any vandalism occurred? Do the police notice a difference in crime reports from this site? Have drug dealers stopped taking over the park benches?

You should also ask whether the message of your project reached other youth. Did they learn what you were trying to teach them? Be sure to include an evaluation step in your overall plan. Ask yourself what you can do better to reach your goals, to involve more people in your project, and to spread your message to a wider audience. Then, make adjustments to your activities to strengthen your project.

In evaluating your community cleanup, also consider whether and how it meets the following more general crime prevention goals:

bullet Reduces crime or fear of crime in your community.
bullet Educates and informs a target audience.
bullet Is cost effective.
bullet Has a lasting impact.
bullet Attracts support and resources.
bullet Makes people feel safer and better about being members of their community.

Learning to evaluate the things you do is a good skill, one you can apply to all aspects of your life. Good luck with your project and -- Go for it!

1 National Crime Prevention Council, What, me evaluate? Washington, DC: National Crime Prevention Council, 1986.

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Youth In Action Bulletin July 1999   black   Number 09