Announcements

Announcements

REQUEST FOR QUALIFICATIONS

The National Folklife Network, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, is seeking a third-party evaluator to complete a developmental evaluation initiated during the launch-phase of the project (2021-23), assist a team of folklorists and cultural administrators transition to designing and conducting an implementation evaluation of the programs and activities of the initiative (2023-25), and ultimately design an outcome evaluation to be conducted in future years.
Individuals and/or groups of individuals, firms, or organizations are welcome to submit a Statement of Qualifications (see below for more details):

Background

The National Folklife Network is a strategic initiative to advance cultural equity by strengthening the folklife infrastructure in both rural and urban communities across the United States. In 2019, the National Endowment for the Arts conducted the first-ever analysis of its Folk & Traditional Arts awards portfolio. The effort explored the program’s geographic reach, its capacity to address historically underserved populations, and the activities and achievements of its grantees and partners. The resulting report, Living Traditions: A Portfolio Analysis of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Folk & Traditional Arts Program, identified significant gaps in the map of national arts funding for the folk and traditional arts and highlighted the need to connect related organizations and individuals to promote and strengthen the folk and traditional arts field.

Through a Cooperative Agreement with the NEA, in 2021 the Southwest Folklife Alliance (SFA), in partnership with First Peoples Fund and the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, launched the initiative by creating cohorts in seven regions and conducting field scans, convenings, community collaborations, and a suite of professional development, mentorship, and skill-building training and networking opportunities. The NFN cohorts are in seven priority areas: four in rural regions (Rocky Mountain West, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Alaska,) and three in urban areas (San Juan, PR; Memphis, TN; Washington DC). Information about the region’s Community Connectors and Community Voices and recent activities of the NFN, including the e-magazine Our Stories/Our Art, can be found on the website nationalfolklifenetwork.org

The NFN cohort convened in Rapid City, SD in 2023 and developed a preliminary logic model guided by core values. The formation of the national network has evolved in measured steps of trust over the last year, expanding the vocabulary and understanding of the folk and traditional arts in adjacent infrastructures to the NEA, supporting creative activities that may have gone undetected previously under the existing nomenclature of the field, and collecting lessons that can inform future actions.

Scope

In consultation with the NEA’s Office of Research & Analysis (ORA), a third-party evaluator will be expected to conduct the following activities: 

  1. Build upon the existing documentary framework developed during the launch phase of the initiative to continue documenting the structure and format of the NFN and its service offerings to regional cohorts. Present interim written findings and facilitate discussions to support reflection on and learning from NFN activities.
  2. Design and conduct a mixed methods implementation evaluation of the NFN. This will include establishing and reporting on metrics to describe NFN’s programs, outreach, and communications activities, the beneficiaries of those activities, the resources used to carry out these activities, barriers or challenges to these activities and how they are addressed or resolved, factors that influence how well the activities are implemented, and early outcomes associated with implementation. As part of this evaluation, the evaluator shall collect feedback from across the NFN community, including the project’s leadership, partners, and constituencies.
  1. Update the preliminary theory of change for the NFN across the contract term in consultation with the NFN community.
  1. Meet regularly with NFN leadership at agreed upon frequency.
  1. Provide quarterly written updates on the evaluation progress to the NEA Project Director and ORA, copying the SFA.
  2. Update the NFN community at least quarterly with evaluation findings and key metrics. This may include leading virtual or in-person meetings and/or presentation, and facilitating discussions to support evidence-based decision-making.
  3. Hold an in-person assessment and evaluation convening with the NFN Evaluator, NFN program staff, Community Connectors, and NEA staff. This convening will provide an opportunity to analyze benchmarks achieved, discuss lessons learned, and plan for future actions, including an outcome evaluation.
  4. Propose a design for an outcome evaluation study to be conducted during a renewal period (2025-27). The NEA Project Director, in consultation with ORA, will approve the study plan.

Guiding Evaluation Questions

  • What is the theory of change for the NFN?
  • How does the NFN’s charge and mandate interface with the existing national infrastructure of the field of folk and traditional arts?
  • In what ways can the NFN help uplift aspirational and practical models of creative heritage work that takes place adjacent to or outside of the known universe of NEA and other state and organizational support mechanisms?
  • Did the NFN regional cohorts reach the intended constituencies? Are these constituencies adequately involved in activities that strengthen their practice as folk and traditional artists and animators? What other early outcomes are associated with the NFN? 
  • What barriers or challenges did the NFN encounter during implementation and how were they addressed or resolved? 
  • What factors influenced how well NFN activities were implemented and received by constituents? 
  • Are the NFN’s feedback mechanisms adequate for tracking and informing real-time programmatic changes?
  • How is the SFA and its core partners functioning—administratively, organizationally, and in terms of personnel— to implement the NFN?
  • What lessons is the investment in NFN yielding for the NEA and the field at large? What are emerging, effective strategies for building capacity in the Folk and Traditional Arts field?

Timeline

The contract will span 18 months from the time of engagement (April 2024) through the conclusion of the current Cooperator Agreement (September 2025).

Milestones in the Evaluation timeline include:

  • Kickoff meeting (April 2024)
  • Implementation evaluation plan, including metrics and detailed timeline (June 2024)
  • Evaluation Study Session in Washington, DC, with NEA staff and key NFN collaborators (Winter 2024, TBD)
  • In-person attendance to an all-NFN collaborators convening (Spring 2025, TBD)
  • Outcome evaluation plan (June 2025)
  • Produce final report (no later than August 2025)

Compensation

Up to $90,000 will be available for the evaluator’s fee (equivalent to $5,000/monthly for 18 months). Additional funding will be available for travel as needed.

How to AppLY

Send:

  1. A Statement of Interest (no longer than 1 page) that addresses why you are interested in this opportunity and what, if any, familiarity you have with the field of folk and traditional arts. If no familiarity, explain what assets and perspectives an outsider view of the field would bring that could benefit the NFN.
  2. A Current CV/Resume for all the Principals requesting consideration.
  3. A professional, evaluation related, Writing Sample (no more than 10 pages or a page with hyperlinks to published reports and other work samples).
  4. Statement of Qualifications (no longer than 3 pages) that makes evident competency in the desired skills and attributes that align with the goals of the NFN.  Please answer succinctly the following prompts in the order provided, and whenever possible give examples or point to past work products and outcomes.
  • Describe your track record of intellectual engagement and authentic relationships with community-based artistic expressions, including but not limited to Black, Latinx, APIDA, Native American, Rural, Urban, and/or Economically Disadvantaged populations.
  • Describe your expertise facilitating evaluation learning frameworks for dynamic teams thinking outside the normative categories (i.e. engaging in critical interrogations of ideas, assumptions, and vocabularies that can often equally include and exclude communities in the arts field).
  • Describe your experience leading developmental, implementation, and outcome evaluations.
  • Describe your expertise with development of logic models and theories of change to guide values- informed actions.
  • Describe your experience with mixed research methods, quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis for evaluation and performance measurement. 
  • Describe evidence of strong project management skills.
  • Describe your ability to communicate in plain language with a variety of stakeholder audiences.
  • List two (2) references.

Interested candidates may contact NFN Project Director Dr. Maribel Alvarez at alvarezm@arizona.edu to ask questions that clarify any part of this RFQ.

RFQs will be reviewed on a rolling basis through March 8, 2024. Submit all documents Attn: Evaluator RFQ at: nationalfolklifeteam@gmail.com