Dwight Hall continues to implement a new database through Salesforce. For an introduction, take a look at this article that introduces some concepts of the “Record.” Here, we analyze the work completed over the past semester and think about ways forward to support community engaged programming.
written by mark fopeano
As an umbrella organization that houses so many member groups, it can be difficult to see all of the exciting things that happen on the ground. Sometimes, staff’s interaction with member groups is limited to transactions like handing over keys to a DH car. Often, an entire semester will go by when some of our member groups don’t stop in at all. That’s why the Record and Review are so vital for Dwight Hall – not only are we able to anticipate and plan for the needs of our member groups/community partners, but we’re also able to celebrate the positive work our member groups are doing.
We recently closed the “Review,” and I find myself celebrating often. While it’s clear there’s no end to the work of Dwight Hall, it’s clear our students take seriously the work they’re doing and their desire to be impactful. The Review is our end-of-semester survey for member group leaders to update us generally on the organization, reflect on their goals, and quantify the output of their work. We can crunch the information in many different ways, but I want to take a moment to celebrate some of the details:
Reviews Submitted: Like most college students, Yale students receive a lot of emails. When you’re in a leadership position of an organization that number probably triples. While Dwight Hall joins that fray, we also try to ask reflective, meaningful questions of our member groups. A good place to test the effectiveness of our surveys is simply the response rate. A 93% response rate shows that leaders of member groups, especially during a period of rest/transition, want to make sure that their member groups continue becoming strong across semesters.
Member Groups by Network: Generally, we support our member groups through Network Coordinators, whose position is to create a sense of community. Our New Membership Coordinator, which covers Applying and Provisional groups, has been busy over the last year or so. As those groups complete our year-long process, they’ll transition into another network within Dwight Hall. The upcoming semester is the first year where both the New Membership and Education networks will have two coordinators to cover all the support needed by member groups.
Member Group Goals: The above graph may be difficult to read, but it begins to show the breadth of organizational improvement our member groups take on each semester. Typically, we see member groups that want to “Increase the number of volunteers,” and “Transition leadership more easily,” but this semester also showed an increase in the groups that wanted to “Create/strengthen partnerships with community groups.” As these goals are identified at the beginning of the semester Network Coordinators can begin brainstorming and implementing ways of supporting specific groups or even entire networks.
Member Group Goals Achieved: Now is when we start seeing unique portions of the Review. This is the first place where member groups self-report to us their own satisfaction levels. A significant portion of these questions are also reflective in nature, “What were your major achievements or lessons learned in working towards this goal” and “What could Dwight Hall do to support your or other groups with a similar goal?” Ideally, the answers to those questions will allow us to transition more orange (partially achieved our goal) to blue (yes we achieved our goal). Keep in mind, these goals are organizational improvement only. We dive into community engaged action in the next section.
Member Group Actions by Delivery Type: In the “Actions” section of the Review, we ask students what they’ll be doing to serve the community. Generally, we define these as four separate “types.” Direct Service encompasses activities like tutoring, mentoring, visiting patients, translation, or empowerment activities, usually done in communion with other organizations and individuals. Education, Advocacy, or Activism is the work done to raise awareness around a particular cause. Capacity Building and Fundraising, along with Research and Public Policy Analysis are relatively straight forward. It’s important to note that Delivery Type is categorized by how students envision their success. For example, a program like HAPPY (Hypertension Awareness and Prevention Project at Yale) may measure their direct service success in the number of individuals served, however the ARCY (American Red Cross at Yale) may instead measure their capacity building by the number of pints of blood raised.
Volunteer Hours by Delivery Type: We also ask about volunteer engagement. We rely on leaders to give us the best information they have, and while imperfect, we’re able to see where our students invest time, one of the most valuable resources a college student has. Our formula is (# of volunteers x # of sessions x # of hours/session x % of volunteer follow-through). Using this formula, we see that our recurring programs, such as tutoring, mentoring, and visiting patients accrue a massive number of collective hours.
Member Group Community Partners: I know this chart is beyond visibility. However, it’s interesting to note that of the 98 actions taken in the first semester, 85 of them involved working with a community partner. To me, that is 85 relationships that must be valued and sustained over time. Quantitatively, the New Haven Free Public Library was our greatest partner, and interestingly, these five actions taken in partnership were through individual member groups. YHHAP’s VITA program calls the library its home base, HAPPY holds blood pressure screenings there, Elmseed works to develop community entrepreneurs, YCT performs shows for children, and the CT Bail Fund holds participatory defense meetings. From an asset-based perspective, the library is an incredible resource within our community.
Member Group Successful Actions: As with our goals, we ask a series of questions about whether Member Groups were satisfied with the work done. Only 60% of member groups were satisfied with the work done, which leaves a lot of room for improvement. In the upcoming semester, we want to ask this question to community partners as well.
Finally, it’s always interesting to note the number of leaders and their spread across networks. Nothing is majorly surprising here, and I was happy to note that leadership is essentially spread across second, third, and fourth year students. This spread should lead to stronger transitions and continued work in future semesters.
The Student Executive Committee will continue to analyze this data and improve the questions we ask. But even better, our coordinators will get to know member groups even before having conversations. Very recently, I was taking my regular commuter train into work, where I ran into a “train buddy.” She asked if I knew any of the phenomenal work that was being done by the Yale Undergraduate Legal Aid Association (YULAA). She told me their translation services have been absolutely dynamite, and not only have they done excellent work but they’re wonderful people. Using Salesforce, I learned that a group of six students worked with 10 clients for several hours each, and in future semesters they’re hoping to do a better job with data collection and getting more volunteers.
Path forward: In the upcoming semester, we’ll have two priorities. First is ensuring that institutional action, like Urban Fellows, First-Year in Service, and SRI are also included in these actions, and second that our community partners are able to play a more active role.