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Nov 23 -- The Corporation for National and Community Service, operating as AmeriCorps, invites comments to OMB by December 23, 2022 regarding the AmeriCorps Program Life Cycle Evaluation—Climate Change Bundled Evaluation to be conducted by ICF. This new information collection will be the first time AmeriCorps will synthesize information about climate change approaches and models across funding streams through surveys, interviews, and focus groups to examine program models and strategies and assess the outcomes for grantees and sponsors, national service members, and partner organizations.

AmeriCorps is a federal agency that promotes volunteering and service through a wide range of programs and grants to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement. AmeriCorps has long sought to respond to climate change and related environmental impacts by funding programs that specifically target extreme weather events and other disasters, sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives, and disaster recovery programming.

The Climate Change (CC) Bundled Evaluation is part of a multi-project contract entitled “Life Cycle Evaluations” (LCE). This project is being conducted by ICF through a contract with AmeriCorps. The LCE contract will conduct three sequenced program evaluations (descriptive and/or outcome based) and provide tailored evaluation capacity building workshops to grantee and sponsor organizations “bundled” together in programmatic or priority focus areas.

The bundling approach seeks to support grantee and sponsor organizations that may not yet have the required capacity to conduct evidence building activities on their own and/or where no evidence base exists for their program area of work. By bundling, AmeriCorps can combine groups of programs across different funding streams with similar models and intended outcomes into a single evaluation while at the same time, providing a peer-learning and networking opportunity through evaluation capacity building workshops. Furthermore, this approach supports the establishment of communities of practice to identify common best practices and lessons learned that can be used by the broader public.

To inform the evaluation plan, ICF reviewed relevant literature about climate change, including climate change mitigation and adaptation; community resilience; and green jobs and career pathways in green jobs. Our document reviews included 49 applications from fiscal year (FY) 2020 and 31 applications from FY 2021 AmeriCorps State and National (ASN) grants and Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) sponsors. We included applications that made an explicit reference to climate change in the project narrative or theory of change/logic model. The review of applications illustrated the diversity across programs and funded projects, with variation in activities, outcomes, community-level partner organizations, and target populations. The literature review shows several promising strategies to address climate change: community resilience initiatives and green jobs training. For example, community resilience initiatives help communities to plan for, cope with, and adapt to a changing climate; while green jobs training prepares and connects individuals with stable-income careers in green fields. However, the empirical evidence is limited on how these approaches contribute to changes in climate mitigation and adaptation.  

The purpose of this evaluation is to provide insight on the implementation of the climate change bundle programs and explore variation in activities for education and training, disaster response, conservation, wildfire mitigation, and energy efficiency. It will explore the ways in which the programs influence community resilience. It will also examine changes in attitudes and behaviors toward civic engagement among national service members and the development of job skills, including skills for green jobs. Finally, it will examine how the programs are serving vulnerable communities and at-risk populations. The research questions for this evaluation are:

1. How do programs/members connect their work to climate change?
2. To what extent does the program include opportunities to increase equity?
3. To what extent is the program operating as intended?
4. What are some promising practices and challenges in implementing the climate change grant programs?
5. What were the barriers and facilitators to meet the intended outcomes of the program?
6. What are the lessons learned that can inform the field or be useful for practitioners that work in this space?
7. What is the likelihood that the program will be sustained beyond the grant?
8. How were the communities and community members impacted by climate change prior to the program?
9. What types of communities are being helped by the climate change grant programs?
10. To what extent are programs focused on vulnerable populations and communities?
11. What are the demographic characteristics of national service members (e.g., gender, age, race, ethnicity, education)?
12. What partner organizations are involved (i.e., community organizations, local agencies)? What are their roles in the program?
13. What is the breadth (number and type of partnership), quality, and quantity of the partnership(s) (number and frequency of joint activities and the strength)?
14. How were partnerships built and maintained?
15. How do grantee and sponsor organizations work with partners to build community resilience?
16. To what extent do the climate change grant programs: (a.) improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy sources? (b.) help communities prepare, respond, and recover from natural disasters and other climate change effects? (c.) preserve public lands and waterways and protect or restore biodiversity? (d.) increase community members' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors around climate change? (e.) build capacity of the community to be resilient?
17. How do the climate change grant programs lead to increased civic engagement?
18. In what ways does participation in the climate change grant programs influence national service members' job skills development toward green jobs?
19. To what extent does participation in the climate change grant programs: (a.) increase national service members' functional and technical job skills? (b.) increase national service members' interest/willingness to pursue a career in a green job? (c.) lead to a job after their service? (d.) lead to a career in a green job after their service?

By bundling, this evaluation combines a group of state commissions with similar program approaches into a single evaluation. Spanning 32 months, this bundled evaluation will include up to 30 grantees and sponsors from ASN, and VISTA to examine program design, implementation, and outcomes using surveys, interviews, focus groups, and site visits. The evaluation respondents will include a wide range of stakeholders:

-- grantee and sponsor program directors and staff
-- national service members
-- partner organization staff
-- community members

The instruments submitted for approval include surveys that examine the program models and strategies across all sites and assess the outcomes for grantees and sponsors, national service members, and partner organizations. Additional interview and focus group protocols will be used to explore these topics in depth. Data collection will be overseen by ICF. Surveys will be administered online using Qualtrics platform. Interviews and focus groups will be conducted in-person during the site visits with virtual collection as backup.

Americorps: https://americorps.gov/
Americorps submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202211-3045-001 Click on IC List for questionnaire, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this site.
FR notice inviting public comment: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-25527
 
For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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