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Thriving Earth Exchange Program Assessment: Request for Proposals

Thriving Earth Exchange is no longer accepting proposals for this RFP.


Summary: Thriving Earth Exchange, a 5-year old program, seeks proposals for a comprehensive program assessment that includes evaluation of the program and its projects, and advice on improvements that can enhance the programs impact.  Our budget is 50K.

Acerca de Thriving Earth Exchange

Thriving Earth Exchange helps communities (mostly in the US but increasingly international) use science to become more resilient to environmental change and natural hazards, sustainably interact with their environment, and advance environmental equity.  We also help scientist move toward more collaborative, co-created ways of working.  We do this by helping volunteer scientists and community leaders work on community science projects that have concrete local impact and sharing the results of their work together.

By the end of 2019, Thriving Earth will have launched 100 projects. In these projects, we work with a diverse set of communities – from neighborhoods of color advocating for change to city administrators designing action plans. Program participants include city managers, leaders of long-standing non-profits, community organizers, activists, neighborhood leaders, scientists who are retired, and science students early in their graduate career.

Our theory of change, succinctly stated, is that if we scope, staff, and manage local projects that make a tangible and concrete community impact using Earth and space science, the communities and scientists who participate in those projects will be more likely to do similar projects in the future, they will be more skilled when they do that work next time,  they will facilitate similar work by others, and they will build or modify institutions they are part of to support this kind of work. All of this will lead to more and stronger scientist-community partnerships, which will lead to more resilient, equitable, sustainable communities who are adapting to and preventing climate change. It will also encourage public support for and use of Earth and space science. In short, we believe that partnering communities with scientists will bridge the gap between advances in scientific research and application of science, move scientists toward a more inclusive, collaborative, and co-created way of working; and create solutions that have local buy-in, are scientifically informed, and sustainable.

Program assessment

We seek an independent evaluator to conduct a comprehensive program assessment of Thriving Earth Exchange. This program assessment should consist of four components.

  1. First is an evaluation of the impact of some or all of the projects that have be launched by the Thriving Earth Exchange program, emphasizing the impact on the communities. Are the communities becoming more resilient, more equitable, more sustainable, or better adapted to climate change? What is the economic benefit?
  2. Second, are the people involved in the project, both scientists and community members, benefiting from their participation? Are they gaining new skills, improving agency, or building capital?
  3. Third, we would like feedback on the Thriving Earth Exchange program – what is working well and what could be improved – relative to our fundamental goal of making a positive difference in the communities we work in.
  4. Finally, and related to the first three components, we would like to evaluate our theory of change and associated outcomes. Is there evidence that engaging in this work increases the competency of the participants (community leaders and scientists) who do this work? Is there evidence these participants are more likely to do it again? Is there evidence that they enable others to do it, and if so, how do they do that? How well is the program serving this goal and what could it do more of?

There are three audiences for this program assessment. One is for current and future investors in Thriving Earth Exchange, including AGU, who deserve to understand what they get for their money.  The second audience is future participants (community leaders and scientists) who deserve to know about the impact their work can have. The third is the Thriving Earth Exchange Staff and Board, who are always seeking to improve the program.

Anticipated Deliverables:

  1. A table that summarizes project results in terms of project objectives, community impact, impact on scientist, and theory of change: (See our own version of this here. We suspect that our table is influenced by our own perception and we want/need an independent audit. Also, we know we are missing some outcomes and impacts, since the Thriving Earth Exchange team is not a professional assessment group.)
  2. A narrative summary of Thriving Earth Exchange’s Impact: a subjective third-party analysis of the impact that Thriving Earth Exchange is having on the communities it works with. We want to be able to use this in grant applications or conversations with potential funders.
  3. As part of that summary, please include feedback on Thriving Earth Exchange practices. What practices seem to be helping projects succeed? What activities are contributing to the theory of change What practices need to be changed? What is working well, and what needs to be improved?
  4. A road map and needed capacity for any programmatic recommendations.

Skills and Attributes

  • Extensive experience designing evaluation and program assessment
  • Credibility as an independent evaluator
  • Prior experience evaluating community-based interventions in culturally, ethnically, and economically diverse communities
  • Prior experience evaluating scientists involved in community-based interventions or related efforts
  • Ability to evaluate outcomes across a widely varying set of intended project outcomes
  • Ability to communicate program assessment results to a variety of stakeholders

Budget: 50K

We recognize that this budget precludes an exhaustive analysis of all 100 projects, so we are open to sampling methodologies to determine project impact along with an overall program evaluation.

Timeline: Deliverables by December 2019

This is an aggressive timeline, designed to provide insight to the AGU board of directors about the program’s success. A sampled subset of projects may make this tractable and serve as a roadmap for a more comprehensive evaluation.

To Apply

Please send an application to Raj Pandya, [email protected]. A complete application should include a

  • CV
  • Narrative that describes how you would approach this evaluation and summarizing relevant qualifications and experience
  • Brief description of past and related evaluation work
  • Three references who could comment on your experience related to this work

Applications are due by 8 July


Key Themes and Potential Questions (in priority order)

Please note that these are questions are broad themes, offered to give a sense of the kinds of things we seek to learn through the program assessment. This is not an exhaustive or exclusive list, nor is it meant to represent the questions evaluators would pose to Thriving Earth Exchange participants.  We offer it as additional background with the understanding that we would together the final questions.

  1. Project Success:
    1. Did the project meet its objectives – e.g. if the goal was community resilience, is the community more resilient?
    2. Would the community recommend working with Thriving Earth? Would they work with Thriving Earth Exchange again?
  2. Community Attitudes, Capital and Skills
    1. Does work with Thriving Earth Exchange increase a community’s ability to and interest in using science?
    2. Did it enhance community capability, connections, or capital?
    3. Does it increase their comfort with scientists? Does it make them more effective in designing projects that leverage science?
    4. Are they more likely to reach out to scientists in the future?
    5. Have they maintained/expanded their connections with scientists and science institutions?
  3. Scientists Attitudes, Capital, and Skills
    1. How do scientists change because of their interaction with communities and Thriving Earth Exchange? What skills did they develop or hone?
    2. How does it change their attitude toward community work? Toward science?
    3. Does it influence their standing or connections?
  4. Theory of Change
    1. Do project participants work to advance commmunity-science partnerships beyond their project??
    2. Is evidence that ThrivingEarth Exchange is having influence?
    3. What parts of the program are doing this? What could advance it further?

To learn more about Thriving Earth Exchange, please review the material on our website, especially