Summer evaluation training programs are taking place such as IPDET in Ottawa, Canada. This highly respected program is facilitated by some of the best evaluation trainers in the world.
Reflecting on the theme of evaluation training, I ask our readers to consider the following, “Is evaluation training the best place to begin when considering evaluation capacity?
And as a follow-up: Is training all that is necessary to achieve evaluation capacity? Does evaluation capacity = training people how to conduct evaluation?
When donors provide funding for individuals to attend evaluation training courses, they can easily check off the boxes:
Provide funds to send person(s) to training. Check
Person(s) attend training. Check
Evaluation capacity completed. Check
However, is that the best starting point to enhance evaluation capacity and is it enough to achieve it? About a decade ago, ECDG developed its first version of a toolkit that presented our vision for the various elements that should be in place for systemic, institutional evaluation capacity. One of the very last “tools” was training.
Here’s what we said. “Training should fill the gap between identified evaluation needs and current realities. Training is also critical in preparation to meet future evaluation demands on the organization. (Remember that evaluation vision.) The gap between current knowledge, skills, and information gathering and future/anticipated needs should be included in training.” (ECDG Toolkit, p. 36)
Being better able to conduct or manage evaluation (of a specific policy, program or project) is important. After all, programming is at the heart of the mission and work of an organization. However, improving this skillset may not necessarily roll up to an organizational culture that embraces evaluation or the use of evaluation results.
In addition, if an organization is solely focused on program evaluation, it limits the rich role that evaluation can play. It can perform a multitude of diverse functions if conceptualized at the institutional level. Here are some of the domains for the application of evaluation. (ECDG Toolkit, p. 10) Can you think of others?
• Vision and mission
• Policies and procedures
• Board performance
• Chief Executive performance
Administrative management systems
• For planning purposes
• To organize people; time management
• Staff or volunteer training
• To monitor program performance
• Fund raising
Human resources management
• Policies and procedures
• Employee performance appraisal
• Recruitment of staff and/or volunteers
• Retention of staff and/or volunteers
• Community needs assessment
• Marketing of services
• Public relations
• Testing and measurement
It is ECDG’s philosophy that an organization – including its leadership, management, staff and other relevant stakeholders – should first work out what should be known by whom (derived from an evaluation vision, plan, policies, budget, etc.) before sending people off to training. No matter how exceptional that training may be.
By Karen Russon