Two years ago, the mayor of a small desert city decided Lancaster, California would be the solar capital not only of the planet but also of the universe. He was thinking big. His goal was to be the first city to produce more electricity from solar energy than it consumes on a daily basis. So rooftops, alfalfa fields and parking lots are all being covered with solar panels. This ambitious renewable energy project can lower public expenditures and create more private jobs in addition to providing a safety net as the cost of cooling desert homes increases. The mayor noted, “What we’re doing is scalable and portable.”
This is a story of a community taking a system’s approach to a specific issue. Through a champion with a vision, in this case a rather flamboyant mayor, policies and procedures have been developed, supported by a municipal budget, which will convert the vision into a reality. Rather than just a few homes having solar panels on their roofs, the city has embraced a comprehensive approach to harnessing energy that will lead to much greater dividends. A green culture is being created. And the idea of a scalable and portable project did not escape me.
When evaluation is conceived as an activity, it’s like the few homes with solar panels. It’s good but it’s not great. Bits of information, stories, and data are captured. The report generated may make a difference to improving that particular activity or providing a project’s funder with evidence of money well spent. However, an intentionally developed evaluation system can provide an overarching institutional picture. Now there’s some power, pun intended.
Below is the article. You will note it’s not a simple story of altruistic intentions. Everyone has his or her motivations for why they do what they do. And that’s precisely why we developed the New ECDG Guide to ECD. But that’s another story.