The California Arts Council’s programs aim to allow all Californians to thrive via public support for creativity and the arts. To assess the effectiveness of its grantmaking and contract-based funding, CAC has engaged the consulting firms Scansion and WolfBrown to evaluate the agency’s portfolio of programs.
During an initial consultation and planning phase, the consultants developed a detailed Evaluation Plan. While the Evaluation Plan provides a nuanced overview of the consultants’ approach to the evaluation, the implementation is expected to require flexibility and creativity, particularly in responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If major changes to the Evaluation Plan are necessary, the revisions will be shared with the public through this webpage.
Overview of the Evaluation Plan
The evaluation is divided into four tracks of work. Now that the planning portion of Track 1 has been completed, the remaining tracks of work will unfold in parallel while also mutually informing each other.
Track 1: Evaluation Planning, Project Management, and Public Forums
The planning work began with a series of interviews and meetings with CAC staff, Council members and other key informants that resulted in the revised Evaluation Plan. This planning work has been completed.
Track 2: Field Scan of Equity in Arts Funding in California
The Field Scan will provide a deep analysis of California’s arts infrastructure and access to funding, with a particular focus on racial equity. This analysis will provide critical context for the other components of the evaluation. Methods will include a scan of the existing literature, extensive analysis of quantitative data from CAC and other sources, as well as qualitative data from arts stakeholders in four communities across the state. Our collaborator in preparing the Field Scan will be the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA).
Track 3: Business Process Model
The business process evaluation will explore the specific inputs and work steps of the grant programs at CAC, how the programs intersect with each other in the larger grant making portfolio, and how communications and decision-making flow within the organization. Equity, effectiveness, and efficiency in funding are the three guiding principles we’ll assess in CAC’s business systems, with special emphasis on racial equity.
Track 4: Portfolio Review and Agency-Level Theory of Change
Given the complexities and shifting sands of CAC’s portfolio of funding programs, our basic approach to the portfolio evaluation will be to facilitate a series of work sessions with the Task Force taking stock of discreet components of the CAC portfolio. Step by step, this will set up a culminating session about the entirety of the portfolio.
The project is expected to be completed by August, 2022.
The full Evaluation Plan, outlining the individual tasks within each of the four tracks of work, is available for download here.
Readers of the Evaluation Plan will notice its focus on Racial Equity, which is consistent with the Racial Equity Statement in CAC’s Strategic Framework. To clarify that intention of that focus, the introduction to the Evaluation Plan states:
Following PolicyLink’s definition, we think of equity as the just and fair inclusion of all in an arts ecosystem in which all can prosper and reach their full potential (1). We intentionally prioritize race in our analysis with the awareness that racial identities intersect with many other identities that are systemically disadvantaged (e.g., based on gender, sexuality, disability, language, veteran status). Due to the social construction and history of race in our country, the challenges faced by racialized communities are particularly severe. Grantmakers in the Arts has pointed out that, even “within other oppressed peoples’ communities (including women, members of the LGBTQI community, people with disabilities, and others), it has been well-documented that people of color still face the worst social outcomes (2).” The Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE) notes that due to the specific nature of systemic racism, “strategies to achieve racial equity differ from those to achieve equity in other areas. ‘One-size-fits-all’ strategies are rarely successful (3).” By focusing specifically on racial equity, while maintaining an awareness of intersectional identities, we believe our analysis will yield insights that are beneficial to all groups. As GARE pointedly notes, “Systems that are failing communities of color, are actually failing all of us (4).