Over the Mountains and Through the Snow: Hearing Experiences from Different Stakeholders.

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The past few months have been exciting! Xcalibur staff have been traveling and engaging in discussions with high school students, college students, parents, educators, and GEAR UP staff about their GEAR UP experiences.

In addition to collecting data for the Annual Performance Report (APR), many GEAR UP grants have accompanying evaluation questions for which quantitative and qualitative data are collected. Usually, quantitative data are collected in the form of service participation data and online surveys to collect more extensive grant data. It is sometimes necessary, however, to collect in-depth qualitative data to answer some of the evaluation questions. Consequently, Xcalibur staff conducted focus groups with multiple stakeholders to collect data on their views and experiences with their respective grants.

A google search of the meaning of stakeholder, is any person or group(s) with an interest in the grant/program, either having an impact on the grant or being impacted by it. They can be internal and external. Examples of internal stakeholders are GEAR UP school district staff, Program Coordinators, and other GEAR UP grant staff. External stakeholders include students, parents, school staff and school administration. Thus, the focus group discussions included both internal and external stakeholders.

It is important for grants to engage multiple stakeholders to gain valuable insight into stakeholder experiences/feedback, and subsequently make pertinent programmatic changes for program improvement and success. Furthermore, engaging multiple stakeholders and hearing their voices lets stakeholders see that program providers value their input and feedback; this can foster stronger stakeholder satisfaction and engagement.  The truth is, it takes a village; speaking to multiple groups when trying to make programmatic changes is more holistic. Grants should continue to engage students, parents, and educators in conversations to get a more complete understanding of where the lapses are and where program revisions need to occur.

The different focus group discussions yielded very rich textual data. Naturally, we expect stakeholder accounts to be different because they experience grants through different lenses. It is, however, remarkable to see the data converge across stakeholders and offer confirmatory findings to inform the appropriate programmatic changes for grants.

Ultimately, a mixed-method approach (integrating quantitative and qualitative data) will be utilized to answer evaluation questions for some grants. This will yield more complete evidence and provide grants both depth and breadth of the data findings.