Spring has sprung, folks! The roses in our Portland gardens are blooming and so are our ideas about how to maximize impact and guide Health In Harmony programs toward greater effectiveness. With our whole staff together in Portland, we thought now would be an excellent time to introduce our Research Director – Bethany Kois – the lady charged with evaluating Health In Harmony’s programs.
Darya Minovi: In 2016, you became Health In Harmony's Research Director. Can you tell us a little about how this position came about?
Bethany Kois: Yes! Of course. Over the past year, as you know, Darya, we’ve talked about how the social impact sector is becoming more and more focused, not just on actions, but on outcomes. Health In Harmony has paid attention to that shift. While it’s true that we have always considered how the actions we take on Borneo work to improve human and environmental health. In 2007 and in 2012, we created and implemented community surveys to evaluate the magnitude of our impact in the communities living around Gunung Palung National Park. We are now thinking about how we can ensure that our supporters can truly visualize – in detail - the impact of what we do. So, part of my job is to assist with that detail. To work with you in communicating our impact to our supporters.
We also haven’t considered how to communicate to our supporters the way in which we confidently and continually respond to the communities we serve. Our programs arise out of discussion with communities – talks about what problems they face and the obstacles they encounter when trying to solve those problems. We work really hard to collaboratively envision solutions that are workable and then assist our clients with gaining the resources and training they need to implement those solutions. But, it’s really hard to help our supporters understand – in a real way - how we do that and why it is so important. My job is also geared toward that end. Again, to work with you in helping to communicate what our service communities struggle with, how we listen to them, and what they say.
DM: What have you been working on since January?
BK: It’s been a whirlwind! I’d say I’ve worked first to understand what it means to innovate responsibly. New ideas and new projects are fantastic! Brainstorming about problems and solutions is absolutely exciting! But we need to be sure that innovations are also grounded in reality. We need some confirmation or justification that an exciting program idea has some proven element of effectiveness. That’s challenging! We want to keep learning from other organizations and from our service communities and testing their programs and trying their solutions. We want to take advantage of these amazing opportunities to improve and address problems in a unique way. But we also know that we have to be smart. We have limited resources and those resources must be used on programs that are workable.
I’ve also worked very hard to look at the programs we operate and consider whether they are having their desired effect. I think, how we, as an organization, respond to success and failure makes a huge difference in whether we are able to achieve our program goals. It’s about having a deep look at what is happening on the ground and being brave enough to make course corrections when things seem to be heading in the wrong direction. It can be scary to do that! But, it’s really important, right? Our supporters hope that every dollar they give will be used in a way that will make the biggest impact. We want that too!
DM: What next for you in this role?
BK: Well, right now have a few evaluation studies happening. I am pretty excited about each of them! We have a qualitative survey, using realist methodology, happening the ground right now in Sukadana that’s looking to identify and detail Health In Harmony’s theory of change. We expect that work to be completed around August of this year. We’ve also got an ongoing qualitative evaluation to explore the evolution of Health In Harmony and ASRI. That will likely be wrapped up by the end of the year. This summer, we’ll take a deeper look at whether and how radical listening works to empower community members. Lots more to come and lots more to share!
DM: Sounds like something our supporters need to hear about. Can I talk you into a monthly blog update on this work?
BK: Yes! That is a fantastic idea, Darya. Let’s start in June. Stay tuned!
Darya is the Communications and Outreach Manager at Health In Harmony, based in Portland, OR. After studying Public Health and Environmental Policy at the College of William and Mary, Darya knew she wanted to dedicate her career to protecting human and environmental health. When she's not at work, you can find Darya enjoying the great outdoors, exploring Portland's farmers markets, or watching live music.