The Program Being Evaluated
The Meta-Leadership Summits were a national initiative to better prepare business, government, and nonprofit leaders to work effectively together during a public health or safety crisis. Through the Summits, leaders learned skills needed for effective action during times of crisis and built organizational connections to strengthen community preparedness in responding to and recovering from emergencies.
Thirty-six summits were held across the U.S., which focused on applying meta-leadership principles to emergency preparedness practices. The Summits were a joint effort by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CDC Foundation, and the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (established in 2003 as a joint program by Harvard School of Public Health and John F. Kennedy School of Government).
About the Evaluation
The evaluation surveyed participants from each of the 36 Summits to gauge familiarity with and use of meta-leadership principles and tools. The survey examined participants’ perceptions of the utility and impact of the Meta-Leadership Summits.
A series of seven case studies were conducted to examine the long-term impact of the Summits in greater depth. Case studies explored whether and how participants applied meta-leadership principles to emergency preparedness, and what factors may have helped or hindered their ability to do so.
Major Evaluative Topics
The data collection efforts for the evaluation focused on measuring long-term outcomes stemming from the Summit, including:
- Summit community factors, specifically participant satisfaction
- Application and dissemination of meta-leadership concepts and tools
- Connectivity to organizations within and across participant’s sectors
- “Stickiness,” or traction of meta-leadership principles over time
- Preparedness response and performance
Summary of Methods
The evaluation had a mixed-method design, with a web survey sent to Summit participants and seven case studies conducted to examine selected Summits in greater depth. Fifty-five individuals participated in the case studies. In total, 544 of 3,251 individuals (17%) who were sent survey invitations provided responses. For the overall sample, almost a year and a half elapsed between attending the Summit and being asked to complete a survey to measure sustained impacts of the Summits.
Knowledge and Impact
Researchers measured the following results from the participant survey:
- Seventy-three percent of respondents reported applying lessons from the Summit to their work within the last six months.
- Forty-seven percent of respondents reported creating or modifying emergency preparedness response plans to incorporate connections with other local organizations.
- Three-quarters of respondents felt that new connections established as a result of the Summit enabled them to call upon other organizations in within and outside their sector during times of crisis.
- Fifty-nine percent of respondents believe that responses to a crisis or stress event were quicker, more efficient, or otherwise improved as a result of the Summit.
- Fifty-eight percent of respondents stated that better communication and coordination mechanisms were in place during a crisis or stress event as a result of the Summit.
In the case studies, the majority of government and nonprofit participants were already engaged in preparedness and response work, and these individuals considered meta-leadership concepts to be similar to existing best practices in their fields, and therefore did not change their work as the result of the Summits. The opportunity to engage with other leaders was therefore more valued by this set of participants.
Across all case studies, participants found the networking opportunity to form connections to be the most valuable part of the Summit. However, very few case study participants noted a long-term impact of the Summit on meta-leadership in their community.
Based on survey results and case studies, the following are recommendations for those conducting emergency preparedness summits in the future:
- Conduct outreach and engagement activities throughout the Summit process, particularly for participants outside the government sector to achieve long-term impact.
- Consider community context and deploy invitations strategically. Each Summit site had unique factors that impacted the utility of the Summit, particularly in regard to new relationships across silos.
- Use local champions to provide context and guide invitations and recruitment, to avoid inflaming existing tensions, and possibly to bridge local differences.
- Recruit heavily from the private sector. Individuals from this sector expressed the most interest in, and least familiarity with, meta-leadership concepts.
- Add additional time for networking, and make efforts to ensure that individuals from different sectors and organizations interact with each other.