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Battle Creek Unlimited: Economic Development Initiative

Case Overview

With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, FSG was engaged to help Battle Creek Unlimited design and implement an evaluation for a large-scale, multi-year regional economic development effort called A New Vision: Battle Creek Downtown Transformation Initiative

The Challenge

A New Vision involves a complex network of stakeholders working toward the ambitious goal of transforming Battle Creek into a global food science leader through investments in infrastructure and education. The initiative is dynamic and fluid, with many moving, evolving and intersecting parts. Battle Creek Unlimited needed an evaluation process that involved its partners, community members and other stakeholders, and that provided multiple opportunities for feedback, participation and input. FSG’s task was to first design an evaluation that would look both inward at the activities of stakeholders, and outward toward the impact in the community. After reaching consensus with community leaders on the evaluation design, FSG has since begun implementing the evaluation using multiple data collection methods and multiple data sources.

Approach & Solutions

FSG began the evaluation design process by developing a comprehensive understanding of the complex initiative, including the multiple goals of the different partners, the multiple values embedded in the initiative and the network of relationships. With this knowledge – gained through interviews and a thorough review of all planning documents – FSG focused on refining the initiative’s theory of change and definitions of success.

In the evaluation design, FSG sought to answer the following key questions:

  • Defining Success: What are Battle Creek Unlimited’s goals over the next 3 years? What activities or strategies will achieve these? What would be indicators of success for each component of the initiative? What would success look like?
  • Understanding the Context: How are local dynamics expected to influence the initiative’s implementation? How might the initiative be affected by other projects? Who are key community stakeholders and what is their capacity for support? What is the political environment for this initiative and how might it affect implementation and outcomes?

FSG incorporated the answers to these questions into an evaluation plan that included key evaluation and learning questions, a set of success indicators and innovative and effective data collection methods. A communications and reporting plan was created to support ongoing dialogue, learning and sharing with stakeholders. The evaluation was designed to solicit and incorporate feedback from all segments of the community, ensuring participation and involvement from across Battle Creek.

Upon completion of the evaluation design, FSG has now moved to implementing the evaluation. The purpose of the evaluation’s first year is to 1) determine the Downtown Transformation Initiative’s progress to date, 2) inform the continued development and refinement of the initiative’s strategy, and 3) establish baseline indicators for measuring the long-term effects of the initiative. Key data collection activities of the first-year evaluation implementation include internet surveys of downtown employees, semi-annual interviews with community leaders, focus groups with community members, monthly photo tracking and baseline document review of key indicators of progress.

About

Battle Creek Unlimited is a community development organization that received a $35M grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to implement a large-scale, visionary economic development initiative. A New Vision: Battle Creek Downtown Transformation Initiative is a three-year effort that will bring innovation-inspired growth to Battle Creek though strategic investments in education and infrastructure, linked to the establishment of Battle Creek as a global center for food science and food safety research.

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