This is the 4th in a series of posts were we explore one of 5 Evaluative Practices that if adopted put you on the path to being evaluative. The last post highlighted how important it is to Differentiate What You Know from the Difference You Make and how that can open up a set of possibilities. Core to that post are the following:
- Getting clear about why you do what you do and the “to what end” is a new muscle in the non-profit sector which needs exercise.
- Once an organization gets clear, it can be a transformative event that opens up possibilities, focuses efforts and strengthens evaluation efforts
The next critical practice is to “leverage and link your efforts.” Important in both small and large organizations. For large organizations, because it is easy for the pieces and programs to get away from the core purpose and intended impact of your org. For small organizations because there is very little cushion and thus everything you do must matter. This includes not just thinking about efforts internal to your organization but also how you relate to others whose work supports and compliments your own.
In our own practice, we love this part of the process which often is iterative with Practice 2 (Differentiate What you Do with The Difference You Make). If we are doing program /initiative level work, it starts as simply with a group of staff people each armed with a set of color coded large post-its (one color each for outcomes and activities) and a blank wall. Participants are given the opportunity to brainstorm outcomes and activities which lead to them. We then move the pieces around the wall, the dialogue begins and the opportunity for clarity and alignment happen through exploration of the following questions: What leads to what? What is missing? Is that the right outcome? What can we really accomplish? What else do we need to do to reach the outcome? Can we do it? Should someone else? How do we connect?
For more complex endeavors, conceptual models such as network analysis and system mapping can be helpful. And logic models and theories of change are additional tools to assist you in making connections and getting clarity on how the pieces work in service of each other and where your organization fits in the larger environmental context.
None of our work happens in a vacuum, and for us to have true impact as well as understand the degree of impact we CAN have, it’s important to contextualize, be explicit about intention, and develop and implement programs/projects/efforts which have the greatest likihood of success. All of which move you along the path to being evaluative.
What tools have been most helpful to you? What have been the results of leveraging and linking your efforts in your organization?