Jennifer Grove on One Practitioner’s Journey to Embrace Evaluation
3 Comments · Posted by Liz Zadnik in Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building
I’m Jennifer Grove, Prevention Outreach Coordinator at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), a technical assistance provider for anti-sexual violence programs throughout the country. I’ve worked in this movement for nearly 17 years, but when it comes to evaluation work, I’m a newbie. Evaluation has been an area of interest for programs for several years now, as many non-profit organizations are tasked with showing funders that sexual violence prevention work is valuable. But how do you provide resources and training on a subject that you don’t quite understand yourself? Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned on my journey so far.
Lesson Learned: An organizational commitment to evaluation is vital. I’ve seen programs that say they are committed to evaluation hire an evaluator to do the work. This approach is shortsighted. When an organization invests all of its time and energy into one person doing all of the work, what happens when that person leaves? We like to think of evaluation as long-term and integrated into every aspect of an organization. Here at the NSVRC, we developed a Core Evaluation Team made up of staff who care about or are responsible for evaluation. We contracted with an evaluator to provide training, guide us through hands-on evaluation projects, and provide guidance to the Team over the course of a few years. We are now two years into the process, and while there have been some staffing changes that have resulted in changes to the Team structure, efforts have continued without interruption.
Lesson Learned: Evaluation capacity-building takes time. We received training on the various aspects of evaluation and engaged in an internal evaluation project (complete with logic model, interview protocol, coding, and final report). According to the timeline we developed at the beginning of the process, this should have taken about eight months. In reality, it took over 12. The lesson learned here is this: most organizations do not have the luxury of stopping operations so that staff can spend all of their time training and building their skills for evaluation. The capacity-building work happens in conjunction with all of the other work the organization is tasked with completing. Flexibility is key.
Hot Tip: Share what you’ve learned. The most important part of this experience is being able to share what we are learning with others. As we move through our evaluation trainings, we are capturing our lessons learned and collecting evaluation resources so that we can share them with others in the course of our technical assistance and resource provision.
Rad Resource: Check out an online learning course developed by the NSVRC, Evaluating Sexual Violence Prevention Programs: Steps and strategies for preventionists.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.