Thursday, 3. March 2011 12:46
The session titled: Insights into Foundation Evaluation at the 2010 AEA Annual Conference in San Antonio proved to be quite relevant to my practice as an emerging professional interested in learning about and sharpening capacity building techniques. The panelist included Kaye Phillips, Werner Muller-Clemm, and Jonathan Sachs of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, Kathryn Graham of Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions; and Jill Yegian, of the California HealthCare Foundation.
Three themes emerged from the presentations and discussions that have applicability to both domestic and international organizations and efforts:
1. Evaluation should be shared throughout the organization. Traditionally programs engage in discrete activities for a given evaluation. In the Pan Canadian system, new federal requirements dictate a transition to an organizational culture of learning rather than a top down approach evident in traditional models of nonprofit evaluation.
2. Create shared values around evaluation. When introducing evaluation into an organization, one should try to create opportunities for discussion through facilitated workgroups rather than as a mandate. An approach that seeks to engage stakeholders in collaborative conversations help develop shared values and increases buy-in from participants.
3. Incorporating new evaluative tools is not a static process. To increase staff acceptance, panelists offered the following tips for a practical implementation process.
- Start with prototype
- Identify challenges and work to enhance quality of data through routine adjustments year by year
- Complete an informal feasibility study to introduce processes that are more rigorous
- Develop an actionable plan
- Work with senior management to increase buy-in and to provide directives to staff in your absence
- Consider using a facilitator to provide evaluation education and training
- Try to help staff understand how their work fits into the organizational goals
In thinking about my work at jdcPartnerships, three additional themes surfaced which we integrate into our approach as much as possible:
1. Having an internal champion. When implementing a new evaluative tool or framework in an organization, it is important to identify a person or a group of people who have prior knowledge or express interest in the idea or process. As an external consultant, you can take advantage of their interests and ask them to promote the tool or idea amongst other stakeholders. Additionally, working with leadership to build their evaluation capacity has proven to be an invaluable resource. As we work with our clients in designing and implementing evaluations, having supportive, knowledgeable or at least interested senior staff, validates the process. When we do not, we can tell the difference.
2. Including supplementary engagement opportunities. Offer technical assistance (TA) opportunities that are intimate in nature. This advice is especially useful when working with senior staff members. In our work, we find that technical assistance, training and coaching are inherent parts of the engagement process that increases the likelihood that an organization will adopt and transition to an evaluative culture.
3. Convening quarterly/monthly meetings. To enhance trust, communication, increased skill and competency in inquiry, analysis and application, it is helpful to have regular standing meetings to review tools, data collection efforts, analysis and the implications of findings. We often convene an Evaluation Work Group (EWG) which serves this purpose.
We are always looking to deepen our toolkit, so please share additional tips and tricks you have found to be helpful.