No Boundaries – Arts and Disability in Western Sydney

We just finished a report with the University of Western Sydney, evaluating the No Boundaries project and community event in Penrith, NSW.  Penrith City Council launched the report at an International Day for People with Disability event at the St Mary’s Arts Precinct, on 3 December 2012.

You can get the report from the No Boundaries website.  The appendices, including survey and interview guides and the data graphs, are yet to be uploaded – if you need them sooner, just drop me an email and I will send it through.

The project was a clear success for participants and audiences.  We looked at dimensions of the audience experience such as emotional response and captivation, and learning about people with disability.  We interviewed participants and carers in-depth to find out how they experienced the project.

The most interesting finding, from our point of view, was the importance of having an event outcome.  Many of the participants and their carers talked about the amazing impact of seeing their work as part of the large-scale projections which artist Cindi Drennan put together for the big, No Boundaries event, held in Penrith on 21 and 22 September 2012.  One person said they came away feeling “five inches taller.”  Participants felt more confident, more appreciated and more acknowledged by the wider community.  Audience members also reported that they were proud of the event happening in Western Sydney and that they learned more about what people with disability are capable of.

A great project.  We hope they can do it again next year.

Appreciative Inquiry

We are often asked about the different types of evaluation approaches.  We will try to summarise them from time to time here, on our site, and hope this helps people sort through the jargon of evaluation and get to the bottom of what suits you and your needs best.

We have started with an explanation of Appreciative Inquiry, because Jackie was asked about it recently at her presentation in Melbourne to arts organisations.

Download this page as a PDF here.

What is an Appreciative Inquiry Evaluation?[1]

An Appreciative Inquiry evaluation is based on the principles of Appreciate Inquiry (AI), an organizational development method which is focused on building on what an organization does well.  The principles of AI are summarized below.

In an AI evaluation, evaluators and participants work together to share their views of the present, and “co-create” the future. An AI evaluation does not ignore problems, but approaches them as opportunities for change.

In an AI evaluation, the evaluator and participants:

  • become fully engaged in the learning journey
  • work to “co-create” the future
  • acknowledge that there are multiple, equally valid interpretations of reality
  • share their individual interpretations of reality, with an aim to gain a shared understanding of experiences
  • envision possible positive futures which build on present strengths
  • use language and foster relationships which create that positive future

In a pure AI evaluation, traditional evaluative methods – eg qualitative and quantitative research – are used only as the need arises, and are driven by participants.

Principles of Appreciative Inquiry

“Appreciative inquiry” is an approach to evaluation based on the assumption that an organization wants to improve.  Accordingly, the evaluation has a fundamentally positive focus on what the organization does well, and how it can build on this.

The core principles of Appreciative Inquiry are:

  1. Constructionist principle: people’s realities are “constructed” through their social interactions.
  2. Simultaneity principle: change and inquiry are simultaneous.  Inquiry can itself effect change.
  3. Poetic principle: the “story” of an organization is a product of the ongoing narrative of its members and others.
  4. Anticipatory principle: envisioning a positive future can help to guide people towards one.
  5. Positive principle: focusing on the positive can help create a positive energy for the future.
  6. Wholeness principle: wholeness brings out the best in people, so supporting people to share the whole story from a position of individual wholeness can build a “collective capacity for change.”
  7. Enactment principle: positive change occurs when people create the future through their words, images and relationships.
  8. Free choice principle: free choice stimulates positive change and liberates personal and organizational power.

[1] This explanation of AI is drawn from Howieson, Jill, “A Constructive Inquiry approach: blending Appreciative Inquiry with traditional research and evaluation methods,” Evaluation Journal of Australasia, 11(2) 2011.