OL-ECB Week: Bonnie Richards on Getting Yourself In Context and Developing Stakeholder Buy-In

My name is Bonnie Richards, an analyst from Foresee and Chair of the Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building TIG. Welcome to the OL-ECB sponsored AEA365 week!

This week our blog posts will cover a range of experiences discussing challenges and successes we have had sustaining learning or evaluation in our work with organizations or programs. Across our members’ varied experiences, you will learn more about their strategies and methods for facilitating learning and the challenges they have encountered.

In my own role working with clients, one of my main goals is to help them understand where to prioritize improvements for their stakeholders. One of the challenges in doing this is navigating the different environments of organizations, companies, and government agencies. Each group is unique. For example, among government agencies, while there are some similar requirements or processes that consistently govern each, the mix of involved stakeholders who serve as the primary point of contact actually vary significantly.

A primary contact could be a program analyst, or a director of the agency’s strategic planning and evaluation office, or technical director, or even a third party vendor.

Understanding and acclimating to each client, meeting them at their “level” and working within their context is key because it helps you to learn the best ways for interacting with different stakeholder groups. This sets the stage for a successful relationship.

Lessons learned: Ask questions.

  • So, how does one get to the point of successfully meeting stakeholders in the appropriate context? Ask questions:
  • Why are they beginning this process? Were they instrumental in initiating it, or are they tasked it as part of a directive from a director or committee? How do they intend to use the information? What are their goals? What information will be most useful?
  • Take some time to ask questions. Stakeholders will appreciate your interest and the opportunity, and it exposes you to the thoughts, concerns, and values that are top of mind to the people you will be working closely with.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building (OL-ECB) Topical Interest Group Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our OL-ECB TIG members. 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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