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Evaluating Your Communities Talk Activity

It sounds like a complicated process, but "evaluating" simply means taking stock of your Communities Talk activity to learn what impact it made, what went well, and what opportunities there are for future activities. Once you learn those things, you'll be in a better position to respond to the underage drinking and substance misuse prevention needs of your community.

Remember to develop your evaluation plan before your event or activity takes place. A good place to start with evaluation is by referring to the overall plan for your Communities Talk activity. What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to engage? What do you want people to take away from their participation?

Continue by matching your goal(s) with methods for measuring whether you achieved it. Then it's time to collect the data and analyze the results. You can do this through pre- and post-surveys, focus groups, interviews with speakers or participants, partner surveys, and web analytics. Building your own survey is made easier using free or low-cost online tools that provide simple interfaces and reporting options. Use your browser to search for free survey tools.

Less data-driven but also helpful inputs that give shape to the outcomes of your activity can include:

  • New ideas proposed by attendees;
  • New partnerships formed as a result of your activity;
  • Next steps that were established during your activity; and
  • Local policy changes that reduce underage drinking.

Sharing Your Activity Outcomes

Promoting the success and tangible outcomes of your Communities Talk activity can help when you determine the need to demonstrate the impact of your organization's prevention efforts or even apply for grant funding.

Consider the following ways to share and benefit from your activity outcomes:

  • Develop a brief evaluation report for internal and external distribution.
  • Present your findings in a PowerPoint presentation at local events, trainings, or conferences.
  • Use key findings from your evaluation data to inform a local media campaign (e.g., infographic, posters, messaging).
  • Develop a key outcomes tip sheet containing content that can be easily adapted for future reports, promotional materials, and grant applications.

Sharing Your Story With Your Prevention Colleagues and SAMHSA

Keeping SAMHSA informed about the outcomes of your prevention work on underage drinking and substance use is another great way to elevate your work. The evaluation information you share with SAMHSA can help it better understand the local prevention landscape in your community, shape programs that help you continue the momentum, and even allow it to showcase your prevention work.

To share your story with SAMHSA:

  • Log into your Communities Talk profile any time after your activity to review and update details about what you did. Post the date of your activity, goals, and other details. Your colleagues in the prevention field benefit from the details you post for ideas and inspiration.
  • Sharing activity details also may lead to your activity being highlighted as a Success Story. Remember that you must enter your activity date to be considered for a Success Story.
  • You also can upload promotional materials, meeting videos and photos, and copies of media coverage.

Evaluation and Measurement Tools

Use SAMHSA's evaluation and measurement tools to aid in your own evaluation efforts:

  • The Evidence-Based Resource Center contains a collection of scientifically based resources, including those you can use to evaluate your prevention efforts.
  • The SAMHSA-sponsored Technology Transfer Centers provide technical assistance and learning resources on a variety of topics, including evaluation.