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Applied Research and Evaluation

We work with clients to use applied research methods to gain a better understanding of how their work impacts the people they serve and the broader community, often in ways that engage stakeholders as experts in pursuit of the solution to a specific, practical problem. There is a result that the client wants to achieve or a question for which an answer is sought, and through quantitative and qualitative data collection, analysis, and interpretation, clients find a clear path forward.

Some examples of the ways we have incorporated evaluative learning include:

  • Working with a community-wide initiative to develop a Theory of Change and design a strategy for evaluating community-level impact.

  • Conducting interviews and surveys with current and former program participants to learn about their experiences to help shape program design and offerings.

  • Designing and building out a performance dashboard in Tableau that displays program metrics (inputs, outputs, and outcomes) in an interactive, real-time formal useful for program performance management.

  • Providing formative and summative evaluation support to a multi-year, federally funded public health initiative.

United Front

Project Example:
United Front

UF logo (2).png

United Front is a community initiative that began in Fort Wayne, Indiana as a response to the civil unrest and calls for racial justice after the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement. A group of community leaders came together to discuss strategies to positively influence diversity and inclusion in Fort Wayne through the development of a shared sense of humanity and a common language for discussing issues of race and belonging. This core group of leaders quickly secured local corporate sponsorships in support of their efforts, developed a shared vision, and created a network of community partner organizations. Beginning in 2021, United Front launched a robust program of keynote addresses, a curriculum of online learning, social media messaging, and targeted outreach to faith communities and local youth.

“The learning I received gave me a lot of words -correct words, a vocabulary - so that people have a common terminology. It’s important we are talking about the same thing when you’re trying to help people learn and understand.” – United Front Participant

United Front contracted with Community Solutions from the beginning to provide an independent evaluation of the initiative’s efforts and impact on the community. Community Solutions provided United Front with three annual reports in 2021, 2022 and 2023 summarizing a body of quantitative and qualitative evaluation measures and providing specific recommendations to its leaders regarding the future direction of the initiative. Community Solutions also facilitated the development of United Front’s Theory of Change, which states: “Through community partnerships and education focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, Allen County can become a more thriving, dynamic, caring, and equitable community.”

United Front's Theory of Change


The United Front initiative is representative of Community Solutions’ own Theory of Change, providing Community Solutions with an opportunity to partner on a project with the potential to affect measurable change in this community.

The specifics and focus of the United Front initiative have shifted over its three-year history. There have been some challenges with operationalizing the concepts of shared humanity and common language. Initial short-term outcomes included changes in individuals’ perceptions and beliefs around race, as measured by pre- and post-engagement survey responses. Measurable community-level outcomes will likely take years to achieve. A steady decline in participant engagement has limited the scope of the impact of the initiative.

"Realizing I do have biases, I do have them, I thought I didn’t – I was shaming myself, because I didn’t ever delve into it so deeply – now I feel like I’m a cheerleader. I mean, I’m a white woman, it was hard for me to admit to it, but it’s a good hard – it’s made me a better person. I know I’ve changed, and it’s made me look at things so differently. It’s a process and I’m not perfect by any means, but I am growing, and I recommend it to everybody.” - United Front Participant

In 2023, United Front underwent significant restructuring resulting in the creation of a Program Manager position. This individual will report to the Executive Director of Fort Wayne United, an initiative of the Mayor’s Office. Community Solutions is pausing its involvement with United Front for 2024 with the intent of giving the new Program Manager an opportunity to examine and implement the previous evaluation recommendations for the initiative.


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