Program Evaluation: Investigating Where We Live

December 15th, 2018 | EVALUATION

The National Building Museum contracted RK&A to conduct an evaluation Investigating Where We Live (IWWL), a long-running program that has brought together creative youth in the Washington, D.C. area every summer since 1996 to explore, document, and interpret the local built environment.  The study goal was to examine program strengths and challenges to help NBM strategically plan for the program’s future.

How did we approach this study?

To hear a variety of perspectives on the program, RK&A conducted in-depth telephone interviews with a number of stakeholders with different relationships to the program – both internal and external – including youth program participants, NBM staff, outside program stakeholders, and museum peers working in youth programs at other institutions.  RK&A also observed the program in July 2018 as context for data collection and analysis.  

What did we learn?

IWWL is highly valued by all those involved with the program.  Youth participants said it was a profound experience that changed how they think about their community, while NBM staff and outside stakeholders were inspired to see youths’ creative self-confidence grow throughout the program.  The program’s strengths – and its uniqueness amongst museum youth programs – lies in how it interweaves NBM’s holistic approach to the built environment with: 1) a focus on community investigation (e.g., having youth visit and meet with stakeholders in various DC neighborhoods), 2) pairing historical learning and creative arts (e.g., by teaching youth photography skills through the lens of history), and 3) providing youth agency in the museum (e.g., by allowing them to design and install an original exhibition on view to the public).  Still, the study revealed a few areas where the program could be strengthened as NBM re-envisions its structure.  Future discussions about the program should focus on how NBM might establish stronger connections with city officials to promote deeper community connections, better support youth socio-emotionally (and support staff in obtaining relevant training), and find ways to engage program alumni (youth and community mentors) after their summer experience ends.



Team Members

Cathy Sigmond, Evaluator, RK&A, Inc.
Stephanie Downey, Evaluator, RK&A, Inc.


Audience: Administration | Leadership | Policymakers | Evaluators | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Art | music | theater | History | policy | law
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: Museum and Science Center Programs | Public Programs | Summer and Extended Camps