AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Jan/15

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Aimee White on Meeting People Where They Are

I’m Aimee White, new Board Member At Large. Thank you all who elected me, I will strive to represent you well. I live in Washington State but have roots from the southeastern part of the US. I own and serve as Principal Evaluator for Custom Evaluation Services, an independent evaluation consulting firm specializing in Collaborative, Participatory, and Empowerment Evaluation principles and practices. We deeply value and respect the contexts and complexities within which our nonprofit clients serve their communities, and strive to provide exemplary evaluation services. I’m honored to be serving you and urge you to reach out to me to share your thoughts about how we can improve.

I began my evaluation practice in service to the tiniest nonprofits. It was critical that I engage the staff in all aspects of my work, they were the evaluation resources! I find unique ways to involve as many people as I can in the evaluation design process, data collection, and reporting. I do this knowing that many in social and human service agencies are overworked, not trained evaluators, and have no time for one more thing to do.

Lessons Learned: I’m grateful for Social Work training, I learned the phrase “meet people where they are”. It is critical that no matter how “expert” you are, in whatever method or process of evaluation that you are hoping to use, if you cannot meet the clients on their level of understanding the project will go nowhere. It is critical, as a community-based evaluator, that you find ways to challenge your own use of jargon, and seek to use the language of the clients. The goal is always to walk together through the learning process we call evaluation.

Rad Resource: In the high tech and overly complex world of today I take a risk by offering an incredibly “low tech” idea. I created something called “one line logic model” that can be used at program, management, and even coalition levels. Take “one line” out of a logic model and put it before staff/leadership for some small period of time. The front line staff are looking at the “activities” and intentionally studying and improving their performance, possibly looking into implementation guides and improving fidelity for Evidence-Based programs. The data person is pulling the data for that line, checking the input processes among the staff, and improving reporting or visualization processes around that set of data. Management is checking to see that resources and activities are accurately and appropriately linked, and that outputs and outcomes are emerging from that work. I’ve found that this takes what can be an inactive document and make it alive and meaningful. Try making your evaluation processes more usable!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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3 comments

  • Aimee White · January 13, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks Jindra. Yes, using Empowerment Eval practices can change logic models. The best case scenario is starting from the outset with EE principles when possible, and then logic models/logframes/program plans reflect the participants’ and staff ideas from the outset. I’m happy to share a concrete example with you. Email me directly at aimee@customevaluation.com. I agree completely about the international work, simple is always best!

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  • Sheila Brommel · January 13, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I wholeheartedly agree! I would also love to see an example of a One Line Logic Model. Thanks!

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  • Jindra cekan · January 13, 2015 at 2:16 am

    Aimee, absolutely key to keep it simple, as when I work int’lly with ‘illiterate’ communities. Questions; can you share an example of this ‘one line’ process? Also sonce you use empowerment eval, do their theories of change/ logframes turn out differently feom ours ;)?

    Reply

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