Portrait Tool to Help Markets Prepare Community Reports, Connect with Similar Markets

      Posted On: July 14, 2010

new-35-picture-marketThe market list serves have been abuzz lately with questions and corresponding feedback on how to build and use evaluation tools. These questions seem to come in two forms: “How can we assess our market organization so that we can ask for more support from funders or community members?” and as often, “How can we measure success for individual projects?” Both the questions and feedback are of particular interest to the Marketshare staff at marketumbrella.org, the New Orleans-based non-profit that runs markets and shares resources and tools with other markets. The information is helping to inform a new web interface for their tools, which will include their newest data collection portal, the Market Portrait.

Market Portrait evolved from marketumbrella.org’s annual trans•act research, which is conducted through a summer fellowship that measures different forms of “capital” that markets often expect to increase.  These three forms of capital include:

  • Economic (measured by the Sticky Economic Evaluation Device, or SEED)
  • Social (measured by the Neighborhood Exchange Evaluation Device, or NEED)
  • Nutritional (measured by the Food Equity Evaluation Device, or FEED).

As the trans•act fieldwork was being conducted in New Orleans and Brazil in 2007, it became clear that separate data was needed to define different market types, so that the results would better fit the stated goals of each market. “In other words, there is no once size fits all for market evaluation or project structure.” notes Marketshare Director Darlene Wolnik.

Using language developed by national leaders such as Projects for Public Spaces in their landmark public market work, flagship markets were the first typology selected by marketumbrella.org to gather data. A flagship, as loosely defined by marketumbrella.org:

  • The age or size is more than neighboring markets.
  • Engages in or is drawn into drawn into local or state policy
  • Flagships often run additional markets that use the strength of their own flagship to leverage vendors and resources.
  • There can be more than one flagship in a city or region.

Less clear are the similarities and differences for other farmers market types: Niche? Satellite? Festival? What are the benchmarks that these markets share?

Marketumbrella.org is using a framework of place, procedures, products and people to design the Market Portrait. It asks a series of simple questions on market’s size, structure, and intent. The resulting data will be analyzed by the staff and used in adding Shares and other tools to build the field. It will also be possible for staff to use the results to connect similar markets in order to increase opportunities for peer learning. For instance, if a market in Ohio was to wonder about the feasibility of adding a token system, it would be better to be linked to a market that has a similar style and size rather than randomly picking a market to ask for advice.

Another benefit of completing the Market Portrait on the marketumbrella.org website will be that some of the answers will feed directly into the data fields that markets need to use SEED, NEED, and FEED, which could help with grant proposal or project reports.

On the market end, every completed Market Portrait will result in that market receiving a “Report to the Community” that incorporates their answers. This will allow small and large markets to use a professional narrative template that can be added to other reporting.

The beta version of the Market Portrait has been employed at markets from Great Barrington, Massachusetts to Melbourne, Australia while marketumbrella.org staff attends conferences or provides technical assistance. After a year of offline data collection, the online version is set to go live this summer along with the new SEED update.

“It seems like everyone is asking markets to add projects and to explain their long range plans,” says Wolnik. “Hopefully, the Market Portrait and the other tools will assist markets on that journey.”

Marketshare resource, including the forthcoming Market Portrait, are listed on marketumbrella.org’s website under Share.