Arts-based Evaluation of the Communities ChooseWell Program




Hurlbut, Karyn

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The ChooseWell Program has been active for ten years in Alberta and provides supports and resources to Champions to influence active living, healthy eating, and quality of life at a local level. Communities ChooseWell is a preventative capacity-building program in Alberta offered by the Alberta Parks and Recreation Association (ARPA). It has been funded continuously since 2011 through Alberta Health which provided an opportunity to explore the long-term changes the program influenced from the perspective of long-term ChooseWell Champions. The organization – the client - was interested in learning more about the long-term impacts the program has had in communities across Alberta. Evaluation question What changes, if any, has Communities ChooseWell fostered in your community through the past 10 years? In this evaluation, an arts-based approach – specifically visual arts - was used to gain an understanding of the impact the ChooseWell Program has had according to the Champion’s experience. The intention of using an arts-based approach was to give participants an opportunity to explore the ChooseWell program in a fun and engaging way. There were three steps to the evaluation: 1. Individual reflection and painting – this included filling out the community context questionnaire (Appendix D) and reflecting on the years they have been a ChooseWell Champion and writing down key words and phrases that arose. Then the Champions designed and painted their artwork. 2. Quilt design session – Participants joined the evaluator for a facilitated session to share their artwork with each other and collaboratively design the quilt. This empowered participants by having them make decisions collectively about how the final quilt would look. 3. Quilt – The evaluator took the participants ideas and created a quilt design and ultimately the final quilt. We observed a convergence between the findings and the logic model and theory of change. The main impacts are: • Changes in mindsets about health and wellness in the community • The term shift was used instead of the word change which indicates that the changes were gradual and continuous throughout the ten years with the program. • Changes in the Champions, they became community leaders and there was increased Champion capacity. ChooseWell has developed community leaders and supported them in making change at the local level. This evaluation demonstrates that this process led to diverse, long-term, and impactful changes in varied community settings. The ChooseWell Champions are central to the changes that are discussed in this report. These committed and engaged individuals have been part of the ChooseWell Program for ten years or more. They have become catalysts for change in their community. This arts-based evaluation has illuminated changes the ChooseWell program has fostered in communities across Alberta. This approach allowed us to explore varied long-term impacts of the ChooseWell program in different contexts. The creative process allowed for an open approach not predetermining the nature of potential impacts. This gave space to identify what matters the most (the most important impacts) according to the ChooseWell Champions. The difficulty of using this approach is that it may not be a preferred means of expression for some participants. The participants in this evaluation spoke about feeling intimidated when physically creating the artwork. The vulnerability expressed by participants was also an indicator that they felt a sense of trust. It actually helped create a shared experience when one participant expressed how vulnerable they felt, others were quick to agree and empathize with each other about the process. Through using an arts-based approach it provided an opportunity for participants to be engaged in the evaluation process and specifically the analysis phase. It created a space for different ways of knowing and being able to create and share multiple meanings.



Arts-based evaluation, evaluation, program evaluation, Communities ChooseWell, Visual Arts, Community Development