Measures of Health | A Program of Center for Whole Communities

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Who should use this guide?

Any group, organization or coalition interested in improving the impacts of their work and working toward forging a stronger connection between healthy land and healthy communities. Whole Measures is designed to be as accessible as possible to a wide range of people and groups.

How do we best engage with this guide? Is it best for individuals or groups?

One of the most significant ways that Whole Measures catalyzes and supports change is through a dialogue and learning process. We have seen its greatest impact in settings where individuals or small groups of people with diverse experiences and perspectives use the guide to assess the impacts of programs or projects in their community, and then engage in dialogue with each other around how and why they came to their individual responses. This can be a single small project team or a series of smaller groups coming from different parts of an organization or community. Through this dialogue process and by thinking together, co-intelligence can emerge as different perspectives are shared and learning occurs among participants.

What is the best number of people to engage in the process?

Working with groups of 6-20 people may offer the greatest opportunities for dialogue and learning. However, Whole Measures has been used effectively in settings using both smaller and larger numbers. More important than the number of people engaged in the process is to ensure that different perspectives are brought into the dialogue.

Do we use all of the practices?

We believe that each set of practices listed in the guide are important objectives for considering the relationship between land and healthy communities. It may be tempting to ignore or “throw away” those practices that do not seem to be directly relevant to the intended impacts of a project, program or organization. However, we encourage you not to quickly dismiss or disregard any of the practices. A major purpose and value of engaging Whole Measures is to increase your recognition and broaden your understanding of the wider set of impacts – both intended and unintended – that land conservation, restoration and stewardship have on creating and sustaining whole communities.

A significant part of the learning that occurs through the process of using Whole Measures is expressing what really matters. It is useful for a diverse group of people within the organization to take the time to consider all of the value-based practices listed within Whole Measures and to be very thoughtful and deliberate in reflecting upon how they are relevant for their work. In some cases, it may be helpful to engage organizational staff and other partners in an exercise to answer the question, “How relevant or important is this set of practices for our work and/or the particular project or program we are reviewing?”

Those practices that emerge as most important may be the appropriate starting point for your assessment and dialogue process. However, keep in mind that information about the differences in priorities across people and groups may be very important and useful. We encourage users to not rush to consensus. Ask questions about why participants in the process hold different views regarding the relevance and importance of the practices for the program or project. This may be a reflection of different visions and aspirations participants hold for the project/program.

We understand that each organization and community has its own context, set of needs and priorities. After going through thoughtful deliberations, you may still choose to reduce the number of practices you use for your assessment process. We strongly believe that the following sets of practices represent the most basic and essential elements of any evaluation or dialogue that aspires to be about the relationship between people, land and whole communities:

  • Justice and Fairness
  • Strengthening Connections between Land and People
  • Civic Engagement and Social Capital
  • Healthy Natural Lands and Biodiversity
  • Healthy Habitat for People
  • Stewardship

While we do not require you to use any particular set of practices as you engage with this process, we ask and strongly recommend that these six sets of practices be included in all uses of Whole Measures. And while you may wish to rank or prioritize the relative level of importance among the value-based practices, we encourage you try to use all of them as you consider the impacts of your work.

Can we change the language used to describe and evaluate the practices?

We encourage users of the guide to make good use of the work that has come before them in creating Whole Measures. Each practice offers suggested language for describing different levels of performance or contributions your work is making to whole communities. However, if you feel that different language is necessary or helpful in describing the impacts of your projects or programs, there is a space under each practice for you to add language more specific and relevant to your work.

Can we add additional practices?

Yes! Our intent is that Whole Measures will continue to be a “living document” and evolve as different groups adapt it to their particular needs and circumstances.

How do we use the charts?

Each set of value-based practices are qualities to strive for as we seek to create healthier, whole communities through the conservation, restoration and stewardship of land. They are also qualities that are most often talked about as being essential, and yet hard to measure.

Within each set there are 3-5 individual, more specific practices. For each of these, there are short descriptions of various levels of performance: the extent to which the project or program has contributed to creating healthier, whole communities. As you move from top to bottom (or “Negative” to “Highest”), the language reflects a higher level of performance.

We suggest that individuals review the offered language for each specific practice and then select the language that most closely corresponds with your judgment regarding the relative performance of the project or program being evaluated.

Under each rubric is a scale from 1-5, with 1 corresponding to a negative impact/contribution and 5 corresponding to a highly positive impact/contribution. After individuals have reviewed and selected language describing performance for specific practices, we suggest they select/check the number that most closely reflects their judgment of the project’s overall impact for the set of practices.

The language in each rubric is offered to illustrate potential impacts. While we have strived to make it as applicable as possible for a wide range of projects and contexts, it may not be equally relevant or appropriate for all groups. At the bottom of each page is a space for users to offer different language that describes more specifically the impacts of the project/program. This space can also be used by individuals to explain the score they chose (i.e., “I selected 3 because . . .”).

How can we move from individual to group results?

The individual assessments become the basis for a group discussion intended to produce higher levels of shared meaning and collective judgment of the project’s/program’s performance across each set of practices. Experience suggests there is no “right” or best way to proceed through the rubrics in a small group setting. You may choose to review and discuss each individual practice as a group, to discuss the scores you gave to a complete set of practices under one domain (e.g., Stewardship or Justice and Fairness), or pick out only those areas where there seem to be a diversity of responses across different participants.

The most important consideration is that you design and engage in a process that promotes learning; helps develop a stronger shared understanding of the project’s impacts, strengths and weaknesses; and points to opportunities for improvement. With this in mind, it is often helpful to explore those areas where there is a wide range of individual responses for any given practice or set of practices. Seeking to understand the perspectives and judgment that different people bring to their assessment will open up new understanding and learning and form a more effective basis for moving ahead as a group.

How can we use the results?

Assessment results can be used

  • by program or project managers to adjust current or future activities;
  • by individual staff to reflect on how they can engage with others – both internal and external to their organization – more effectively; or
  • by participants in an organization’s or community’s strategic planning effort to create a stronger shared understanding of what matters most and the impacts of past efforts.

The list goes on. As more and more groups are adapting and using Whole Measures, the examples of how the results are used also continue to grow. The important thing is that you consider your answer to this question as part of the process. The power of Whole Measures is in its ability to catalyze new ways of thinking and acting together. This is more likely to happen in situations where there is a deliberate and intentional commitment to use and revisit the results to effect changes in actions, strategies and missions.

How do I register to use Whole Measures?

You can register online by filling out and submitting the Whole Measures registration form.

Is there a printable version of Whole Measures available?

You can download a printable version of Whole Measures as an Adobe PDF on the Additional Resources page.