A major challenge in many programs is measuring results. To honestly assess the effectiveness of our Bergen LEADS civic leadership program, we created a Civic Engagement survey that is being administered to each class of 30 participants just before they begin their seminar year and several months after completion. Judging from the first set of responses, the program is demonstrating impressive results:
♦ Pre-Bergen LEADS 48% had worked with members of the community to solve a community problem; after Bergen LEADS, more than 70% had done so.
♦ Pre-Bergen LEADS 55% of the class said they “always” voted in local elections; post-Bergen LEADS that number was 71%, with 100% reporting that they had voted in the most recent election.
♦ Pre-Bergen LEADS 10% volunteered for a candidate or political campaign; afterwards 24%.
♦ Pre-Bergen LEADS 48% tried to convince people to vote for or against a candidate; post-Bergen LEADS 76%.
♦ Pre-Bergen LEADS 29% had contributed to a political candidate, party or organization; post-Bergen LEADS 47%.
♦ Pre-Bergen LEADS 55% had contacted or visited a public official; post-Bergen LEADS 65%. Similarly, pre-Bergen LEADS 28% had contacted a newspaper or magazine to express an opinion; post-Bergen LEADS47%. 21% had signed a written petition about a political or social issue before Bergen LEADS, and 41% had afterwards.
♦ The rate of volunteering in the past year increased from 83% to 94%. The rate of group membership (contributing time and money) rose from 50% to 71%, and the rate of actively raising funds for a charitable group jumped from 31% to 71%.
♦ In terms of ongoing involvement, 61% of graduates are members of Alumni of Bergen LEADS and 89% of alumni participate in committees and program events.
Looking ahead, all Bergen LEADS participants will be given the survey before they begin and each spring after completion. Results will be aggregated to provide a reliable measurement of the program’s effectiveness in preparing leaders for civic participation.