CEC is sometimes a bit tricky to describe. It has a name (Connecting Education and Communities), so that’s helpful. It has several agreed aims, principles and values. That's helpful too. But if we are ever actually asked the question “so what does CEC actually look like,” we hesitate.
Because it looks so different in each community. And as each community is developing and changing their project all the time, it makes it hard to pin down a description of what’s happening that lasts for longer than a couple of months.
As a project team, we’ve learned to be comfortable with this diverse and ever-changing reality. But we also have a committee that we report to, who need good information to help make decisions. We have a theory of change and an evaluation framework, which needs good information to help us understand what difference we are making. We have other stakeholders, including our groups, who like to know what’s going on.
The thing is - we don't want to overburden our groups with reporting. We fund them to create connections, to innovate, to collaborate, to reflect, to make a difference and understand what differences they are making, and for whom. We'd really rather they didn't spend their time writing reports for us on how they are doing this. However we also need to make sure that our groups are on track and that things are going OK for them.
So we started looking for a solution. We needed to find a way for our groups to 'report', without reporting. We wanted it to be visual, to allow creativity and allow multiple people to view, and use. We needed different levels of access permission so that our groups could confidently share what's working, as well as what isn't. It also needed to be super easy to use. Most importantly it needed to be free.
After some time spent looking, and testing, we settled on Trello.
One of our Trello boards
Trello is a collaboration tool that gives us a visual overview of what’s happening across all our projects. Each of our funded projects has a series of boards that they can update regularly. These boards not only enable us, and our committee, to see what’s happening, they also offer each group a way to tell their stories of change and track their projects over time.
Purists use Trello to project manage, but we find it equally useful as as an evaluation and reflection tool. We don’t have lists of things to do. Instead, we use it to share what we’re learning, to celebrate our successes, and show others what we are up to.
Most importantly, it's allowed us to track and visualise multiple projects. If you are looking for a tracking, reflection and evaluation tool for multiple projects then we would recommend considering Trello as an option.