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Alumni Support and Evaluation: Kristine Maltrud, M.P.H., Healthy Native Communities Partnership, Inc.

Submitted by: Natalia Castaneda on Aug 24th, 2011 at 10AM PDT

In 2004, Kristine Maltrud was Coordinator for the Healthy Native Communities Partnership (HNCP) Learning Team, based in New Mexico.  HNCP is a non-profit organization based on the Navajo community of Shiprock, New Mexico, that supports capacity building, leadership development partnership, and networking so that Native communities are better prepared to realize their own vision of wellness.  During a series of internal meetings, the Learning Team recognized they would benefit from reaching out to learn from other leadership development organizations. Kristine did some research and found Leadership Learning Community (LLC) on the web, which was listed as an organization that specialized in leadership evaluation. 


Upon finding LLC, Kristine contacted Deborah Meehan, LLC’s Executive Director, and made plans to travel to Oakland to meet with LLC.  HNCP was interested in learning more about how to expand support for alumni of their program.  They recognized that the one-year fellowship program, while highly valued, does not enable fellows to reach their full support.  Learning from others about how to provide continued support and access to resources post-Fellowship was a top priority when Kristine traveled to Oakland.

“When I went to the meeting in California, I got so much information back regarding alumni support.  We knew it was important in the leadership research we had done… I got to dive deeply into that world and hear from all different kinds of programs about what worked and what didn’t.  The thing that was really good about that is that I felt there was some learning across programs about the importance of alumni support, resources for alumni support that crossed all of the programs.”


Over the past few years, HNCP has been developing its alumni support program known as the Native Wellness Resource Network.  The Healthy Native Communities Fellowship program is now a 2-3 year program with a small but committed group of alumni focusing on keeping track of community change beyond the first Fellowship year.  The HNCP Learning Team, led by Nina Wallerstein and Becca Rae at the University of New Mexico’s Public Health program, is also conducting extensive case studies of two HNCP communities.


The HNCP Learning Team and Curriculum Committee have built partnerships and identified issue areas around which the alumni come together.  They are considering webinars and regional/national meetings as they move forward.   LLC has been integral to their alumni development process through meeting attendance, webinars, conference calls and ongoing communication with Deborah Meehan and Claire Reinelt.


“I was able to show our administrative team here in New Mexico and our advisory group why alumni support was important.  I got a lot of resources off the [LLC] website, had a conference call with Deborah, and through the meetings with LLC I have met people around the alumni support issue and they’ve connected me with resources that I could share.”


HNCP and LLC have also collaborated to explore leadership evaluation philosophies and methodologies.  Participatory evaluation, which has been a strategic priority for the HNCP team since its inception, was explored more deeply in collaboration with the LLC. Participatory principles are essential to the HNCP’s evaluation and curriculum development work, both internal and external due to their evolving use of technology to support engagement.


“At the first retreat we did this year we introduced [the alumni] to participatory evaluation, and we developed a wiki together… The whole group participated and for many of them it was their first introduction to the wiki.”


HNCP’s and LLC’s evaluation work has had a strong impact on the leadership development field, resulting in an article (Hoole, E., & Patterson, T.E. (2008). Voices from the field: Evaluation as part of a learning culture. In J. G. Carman & K. A. Fredericks (Eds.), Nonprofits and evaluation.


New Directions for Evaluation, 119, 93–113.) and several interviews.   HNCP’s research on and implementation of participatory evaluation strategies continue to be a valuable tool for members of HNCP, helping to guide their work with alumni and encourage collaboration.  For example, an Alumni Advisory Group was established three years ago with representation from four Fellowship cohorts, and this group has assisted with the development of longitudinal evaluation surveys, curriculum choices and, most recently, case studies.


“We have a strong evaluation feedback loop in our program.  It’s the most amazing experience I’ve had as an evaluator.  Every time we have a curriculum meeting, the evaluation comes up and we use it to make decisions.”


The continued access to resources and networks has propelled HNCP to the point where they are developing new strategies for leadership development and evaluation, increasing the capacity of their alumni program, and, most importantly, fulfilling their mission of helping Native Communities realize their own vision of wellness.


I think what LLC is doing is valuable.  They have been so generous to us and continue to be helpful to us.  One of the things that we are doing now is some hiring, one piece of what I would like [the hiring committee] to do is stay connected to LLC.   It’s so easy to get blinders on getting the work done.  It’s important to network and connect with others – LLC is a clearinghouse for that.