The reports I authored about food bank capacity and customer service for Washington State’s Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development are now available online at http://www.cted.wa.gov/site/271/default.aspx. As some of you know, I have been working with emergency food providers statewide for the past two years. This project follows on a capacity building/best practices report that I worked on with Washington Food Coalition (also posted at this site). Over this time, I’ve learned a great deal about the challenges and rewards of running a food bank or meal program, and increased my respect for the incredible network of (predominantly) volunteers that feeds hungry families statewide.
These projects also reflect a newer area of practice for me: research and evaluation. Nonprofits who take on the challenge of conducting research–alone or in partnership with outside experts–have an opportunity to define for themselves what matters and how to measure it. In some cases, they can also demonstrate the effectiveness of “indigenous” community-driven strategies and influence funder investments. This is an exciting area of capacity building, so I look forward to continuing my involvement in this arena and growing my own capacity to conduct useful and methodologically sound research for clients.