Evaluation of Savannah Music Festival Education Programs

Type of Organizations: Education Program

Funding: Private Funding

Description: Since 2017, Bluknowledge has served as the external evaluator for Savannah Music Festival (SMF) Music Education Programs including SMF Musical Explorers and SMF Jazz Academy. SMF Musical Explorers is a culturally-relevant K-2 music education curriculum, implemented by classroom and music teachers in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System and currently serving 10,000+ students. SMF Jazz Academy is a 5-12th grade afterschool music program that removes participation barriers for low-income students.

We have advised and supported SMF Musical Explorers staff to broaden measures and analysis from students’ academic performance to include teacher and school implementation via teacher surveys, implementation case studies, classroom observations and teacher reflection forms (which we designed and trained staff on). We recently added curricular assessments to more accurately measure students’ musical, literacy, and social studies learning. We have also designed and trained SMF Jazz Academy staff to utilize a custom participant manager, which organizes recruitment, retention, and demographic data. Our evaluation also includes self-reported measures (via surveys and focus groups) of students’ perceived safety, freedom to express themselves, and sense of belonging.
As a trusted partner and advisor, our evaluation findings and recommendations have informed programmatic improvements, such as institutionalizing collaborative planning sessions into teacher professional development workshops and implementing SMF Jazz Academy recruitment policy changes to ensure that the program meets its goal to serve youth in underserved communities.

Strategic planning: Deep center

Type of Organizations: Non-Profit

Funding: Private Funding

Description: In 2023, the Deep Center hired Bluknowledge LLC to design, facilitate, and communicate their strategic planning for 2024-2026. This comprehensive process included organizational research and 12 stakeholder interviews (executive director, board, staff, community partners, participants). Research findings and stakeholder input informed the design and facilitation of a full-day strategic planning session that engaged 33 stakeholders in collaborative discussions about strengthening and aligning Deep’s programming and policy work with the organization’s mission and values and their focal community’s needs and desires.

Participants completed a session reflections form, which elicited their perceived participation and contribution during the strategic planning session activities. All (100%) survey respondents agreed the session focused on critical areas that will increase Deep’s impact in the community and the majority (92%) agreed they were able to set goals that align with Deep’s mission, vision, and core values.

Documented notes from the guided discussions during the strategic planning session underwent review, thematic analysis, and synthesis into a strategic plan that included Strategic Directions, Goals, and Actions and Metrics & Milestones for the following areas: Narrative & Systems Change; Communications; Organizational Culture, Communications, & Collaboration; Grantseeking, Fundraising & Development; and Board Development.

In alignment with Deep’s core values, the strategic report amplifies the diverse voices of the stakeholders and honors their expertise. For example, the Deep Statement of Strategic Progress 2018-2023 reflects stakeholders’ reported progress on previous strategic actions. The Fertile Ground (strengths and opportunities) sections include direct quotes from the strategic planning session notes. In the Strategic Actions section, specific suggestions from stakeholders related to topics, partners, or examples were included, when possible.

Communications: Deep Strategic Planning Report 2024-2026.

RACIAL JUSTICE & HEALTH: COVID-19 Vaccine Equity in the Black Community

Type of Organizations: State Department of Health, Health Consulting Firms

Funding: North Dakota Department of Health

Description: In partnership with Dr. Kathy Anderson of Nurturing Wellness Consulting, Bluknowledge LLC conducted a survey study for the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) to understand challenges and generate solutions that could advance COVID-19 vaccine equity in the Black Community. We designed survey and focus group research instruments to generate evidence about the uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations in the North Dakota Black Community, specifically what factors support and prevent individuals from becoming COVID-19 vaccinated. To support this, we administered and monitored the survey. We also analyzed and communicated the findings via the COVID-19 Vaccine in the North Dakota Black Community report and reusable social media content. Evidence and actionable recommendations from this survey study informed the NDDoH’s Health Equity Unit’s 2020-2024 strategic plan.

Communications: Report on COVID-19 Vaccine in the North Dakota Black Community Survey Study [Full Report] [Highlights].

FAMILY LEARNING & ENGAGEMENT FOR K-12 SCHOOLS AND DISTRICTS | Design Remote Learning with Families in Mind

Type of Organizations: Social Impact Firm, Nonprofit Organization

In 2020, Bluknowledge LLC surveyed families to learn more about their learning experiences at home during the COVID-19 school closures. We summarized and shared families’ responses to

  • amplify the voices of parents and families in conversations about learning, schooling, community, and equity.
  • provide a range of family learning examples for schools and districts to consider when planning for families’ continued support of their learners at home.
  • prompt us to remain reflective and open as we plan for and design learning with families in mind.

In addition, we authored two blog series that exemplify challenges facing families during this time and elaborate our survey findings. These offer guidance for districts, schools, and teachers to proactively plan learning that embraces families in support of learners.

Communications: [Blog Series: Design Remote Learning with Learners’ Families in Mind] [Blog Series | Design Remote Learning 2.0 with Families in Mind][Savannah Families Share Learning Experiences during COVID-19 School Closures][SURVEY SAYS: US Families Share Learning at Home Experiences during COVID-19 School Closures]

Needs Assessments and Strategic Planning for K-12 Schools and Districts

Type of Organizations: K-12 Public Schools and School Districts, Education Consulting Firms

Funding: State, District, and Private Funds

Description: As a contracted Senior Consultant for the International Center for Leadership In Education (ICLE), Dr. Erika D. Tate conducted needs assessments and strategic planning for K-12 public schools and districts. Applying ICLE’s Rigor/Relevance Framework, she conducted interviews with principals, teachers, students, families, and business partners about their teaching and learning experiences. She also conducted classroom visits that documented the prevalence of specific instructional strategies and the levels of rigor, relevance, and learner engagement. The collected data were synthesized into the findings and recommendations made available to school and district stakeholders.

Dr. Tate also facilitated strategic planning sessions that brought administrators and teachers together as a team to (a) identify the strengths and weaknesses of classroom instruction, (b) prioritize strategies to bring about needed improvements in the classroom and in the school as a whole, and (c) guide stakeholders in collaborative dialogue to create and document their strategic action plans for their classrooms, schools, and districts.

Communications: Needs Assessment Reports, Instructional Practice Assessment Reports, Strategic Planning Sessions, and Strategic Action Plans.

RACIAL JUSTICE: Seeing Savannah Through a Racial Equity Lens

Type of Organizations: City-wide Task Force, State-wide Systemic Change Alliance

Funding: The Sapelo Foundation

Description: During the summer of 2021, Bluknowledge LLC was contracted to lead the authorship of the Education Committee report for the Racial Equity and Leadership (REAL) Savannah Task Force.

We developed a racial-equity framework to focus, organize, and facilitate data collection, analysis, and policy recommendations to drive toward the intended outcome: academic success for Black students including access to, and graduation from, institutions of higher education. A strategic plan of action was recommended, which included guiding questions and data inquiry for the following areas: Early Childhood and School Readiness, Academic Success & Instructional Effectiveness, Out-of School Learning, and School Success.

Communications: Seeing Savannah Through a Racial Equity Lens [Full Report].

FOOD JUSTICE: PLAN4HEALTH: ENGAGING STAKEHOLDERS IN PLANNING FOR POLICIES, SYSTEMS, AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGES THAT INCREASE FOOD ACCESS IN SAVANNAH

Type of Organizations: Planning Association, Public Health Association

Funding: Centers for Disease Control (CDC) funded partnership between American Planning Association and the American Public Health Association

Description: In July 2015, Bluknowledge LLC was contracted by Transport Studio on behalf of Healthy Savannah to (a) conduct, analyze, and synthesize stakeholder interviews with community officials, leaders, and gatekeepers to inform strategies for improving local access to healthy food through policy and environmental change and (b) strategize outreach to youth and priority populations about Plan4Health project activities. Other project team members include Forsyth Farmers’ Market, Savannah Chatham Food Policy Council, and Armstrong State University.

Communications: Plan4Health Stakeholder Interview Summary.

community wellness: Savannah Child Wellness Initiative |  Focus Group Research, Parent Engagement, and Community Education

Type of Organizations: National Foundations, Local and National Business Coalitions

Funding: National Business Coalition on Health, United Health Foundation, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Contracted by the Savannah Business Group

Description: The National Business Coalition on Health (NBCH), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and the United Health Foundation (UHF) funded the Savannah Business Group (SBG) to engage parents, employers, and physicians in raising awareness about and improving child wellness. Bluknowledge LLC implemented a parent engagement strategy to address childhood obesity. We conducted focus group research with five parent groups about child wellness at home, school, and in the community. Findings from this research were reported in the Childhood Obesity in Chatham County – Parent Focus Groups Summary Report and informed the development of parent resource guides, planning for the Parent Summit for Child Wellness, and implementation of the school wellness policy.

Communications: Childhood Obesity in Chatham County – Parent Focus Groups Summary Report [Executive Summary] [Full Summary Report] [Highlights], Parent Resource Guide [Pamphlet].

food justice: Community Assessment Initiative: Let’s EAT, Healthy, PLAY Often, and Create COMMUNITY!

Type of Organizations: Regional Health Agency, Urban Planning Consulting Firm

Funding: Coastal Health District

Description: In August 2013, Bluknowledge LLC collaborated with Denise Grabowski of Symbioscity, and Cristina Gibson of Coastal Health District to plan and facilitate four (4) community forums in the Eastside and Westside neighborhoods of Savannah. In the first round of community meetings, residents mapped existing and potential healthy places in their neighborhoods and suggested ways their community wants to improve opportunities for healthy eating. The second round of meetings created space for community residents to plan their actions. After individual and collective reflections on how they can help their community, residents drafted community action plans – vision, action steps, and resources.

Community Engagement Tools: Community Assessment Initiative: Let’s EAT, Healthy, PLAY Often, and Create Community! [Shopping Survey], [Participants Strengths Survey].

ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT: Workforce Study | Focus Group Research: Job Seekers and Small Businesses in Savannah, Georgia

Type of Organizations: Regional Economic Development Agency, Chamber of Commerce, Regional United Way Network

Funding: Commissioned by Savannah Economic Development Authority, Savannah Chamber of Commerce, and United Way of the Coastal Empire, Contracted by Armstrong Atlantic State University’s Public Service Center

Description: The Savannah Economic Development Authority, Savannah Chamber of Commerce, and the United Way of the Coastal Empire commissioned a study of the workforce in Savannah, Georgia to conduct primary research on barriers to employment faced by job seekers earning a GED or trade degrees. As part of this study, Bluknowledge LLC designed, facilitated, and analyzed six (6) focus group interviews with job seekers (4) and small business owners and representatives (2) to explore (a) challenges that residents, who are studying to achieve a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, face when seeking meaningful employment and (b) the small business community’s perceptions of the entry-level applicant pool for potential employees. The summary of findings was communicated in a research brief to inform the greater workforce study.

Communications: Workforce Development | Focus Group Summary – Job Seekers and Small Businesses in Savannah, Georgia [Full Summary Report] [Highlights].

Food Justice: Bring It Home at the Forsyth Farmers Market: Making Healthy Eating and Physical Activity More Accessible to Ethnically-Diverse, Low-income Families

Type of Organizations: Farmers’ Market, Health-based Coalition

Funding: Healthy Savannah, City of Savannah

Description: In October 2012, Bluknowledge LLC received a Healthy Savannah grant to design and deliver ten (10) healthy food education classes and three (3) market events during November 2012 and June 2013.

Market events engage new and existing Forsyth Farmers’ Market shoppers in a fun, interactive scavenger hunt. Through play, they become familiar with local farmers and foods; learn how to prepare easy, affordable recipes with local, in-season foods; and participate in physical activity.

Healthy food education classes introduce community residents to the local food system through a guided shopping tour of the Forsyth Farmers Market (and its satellites), followed by a Healthy FoodKnowledge class that includes nutrition education and a hands-on cooking experience.

In addition to promoting healthy practices that can prevent or reduce obesity and other related conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, Bring It Home also contributes to increased food security among low-income households and promotes a more sustainable local food system.

Communications: Bring It Home at the Forsyth Farmers Market: Making Healthy Eating and Physical Activity More Accessible to Ethnically-Diverse, Low-income Families [Summary].

food justice: Healthy FoodKnowledge | Educating FaitH-Based Communities about health eating

Type of Organizations: Faith-based Organizations, Public Health Agency

Funding: Coastal Health District

Description: In 2012, Bluknowledge LLC partnered with the Coastal Health District to provide Healthy FoodKnowledge classes to three churches in the Faith and Wellness Network: Central Baptist Church, St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, and Temple of Glory Community Church.

Healthy FoodKnowledge offered nutrition education and food preparation guidance for community groups interested in learning easy, practical ways to eat healthy. Participants completed surveys to generate evidence about how the classes contributed to their (a) understanding of the nutritional value of healthy foods, (b) familiarity with local healthy food sources, and (c) plans to shop for and prepare healthy dishes.

Communications: Healthy FoodKnowledge | Educating Faith-based Communities about Healthy Eating [Summary], [Preliminary Report].