So what are the ingredients that make evaluation take root and grow? Certainly management and governance support, a champion’s voice within the institution, an organizational culture that promotes learning, a long-term commitment of funds and a systemic view of evaluation are key factors.
Often overlooked are evaluative activities that are mutually beneficial to organizations with similar programming – such as partnering in evaluation training, sharing data, conducting joint evaluations, and a systematic exchange of lessons learned and best practices.
Another critical component is the change agent. I have written on the role of an external change agent, a coach or critical friend, providing long-term technical support to an organization. Combining these two factors, collaborative evaluation activities with a shared external evaluation expert, can reduce institutional costs and increase institutional capacity.
Yesterday, I spoke with PeiYao Chen, Associate Director of Evaluation at TCC Group. She is working on a project involving a cohort of five nonprofits who are partners under an umbrella youth organization. TCC provides group training to build evaluation skills and one-on-one technical support to their senior management or executive directors. It was wise to involve senior management to ensure a stronger commitment to evaluation.
The project is about a year old and I was interested in the byproducts that result from the shared events. Among other benefits, PeiYao discussed how data is being collected together using shared tools they have learned to use. The results in a larger N for data analysis. It would be interesting to hear stories from participants of informal networking around evaluation taking place.
Besides these activities, focused on training and technical assistance, I hope the organizations involved have evaluation policies in place, supported by budgets, to ensure evaluation is a long-term proposition. I wish all involved much success.