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

TAG | Culture of Evaluation

Hi All, I’m Abdul Majeed, an M&E consultant based in Kabul with a track record in establishing M&E department at Free & Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA) organization. I share insights about evaluation practice based on my own experience and strive to increase awareness on this (comparatively) new notion.

Creating a culture where M&E is considered a necessary tool for performance improvement, not an option (or imposed by outsiders-especially Donors) is not an easy task. Some employees would resist due to a lack of awareness of value of M&E (or what M&E is all about) and others may resist due to a fear of accountability and transparency ensured by implementation of a robust M&E system or culture. Based on my experience, at first, staff weren’t aware of M&E and its value. After working hard for two years, they now believe in M&E and the positive changes made by following and using M&E information and recommendations. One thing I have observed is that fear arises due to the transparency and accountability culture in the organization. Now it is hard to engage those who fear (sometimes it is quite tough to distinguish them explicitly from those who are resistant), because of the increase in transparency and accountability, but this is a major achievement for the organization and could lead to opening new doors by funders (trust would be built significantly). They may deny or minimize levels of resistance but, in reality, may be creating obstacles.

Lessons Learned:

  • Board of directors and/or Funding agencies’ support is highly needed to help the M&E department in ensuring transparency and accountability in the organization.
  • M&E staff shouldn’t fear losing their jobs or any other kind of pressure to disclose information that reflects the exact level of transparency (or any corruption that takes place). Telling the truth is the responsibility of evaluators.
  • M&E staff should have a good networking and relationships with staff that will help them in achieving their goal and building trust among them.
  • Coordination meetings between M&E and donor agencies would enhance the process and encourage the team to continue their work for increased transparency and accountability.
  • M&E should not be solely focused on what worked or not – the real picture of what this process will eventually lead to should be clear to all staff.
  • Provide incentives to those who adhere to M&E recommendations. I think it will help in promoting a strong M&E culture.
  • M&E should be strict and honest in disclosing the information on accountability and transparency. There shouldn’t be compromise on telling the truth; otherwise all efforts would be useless. The team can work together with senior staff and let them know what how increased transparency and accountability would have on the sustainability of organization.

Author’s Note: Thanks to all who commented on my previous articles especially to Phil Nickel and Jenn Heettner. These are my insights based on my own experience and would highly appreciate readers’ comments.

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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I’m Wendy DuBow, and I am the internal evaluator for the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). Anyone who has worked as an internal evaluator – or a long-term external evaluator – knows the importance of developing a “culture of evaluation” in an organization; however, staff enculturation is more easily recommended than achieved.

NCWIT a fast-moving, nonprofit organization staffed by really smart people that had no internal evaluation for its first five years. My colleagues like the idea of evaluation data; that’s why they hired me. They often say aloud that they crave evaluation data (OK, they use a different verb, but the sentiment is equivalent). Yet, they can’t slow down enough to hear or read the evaluation data, let alone apply it to future projects.

In my 18 months at NCWIT, I’ve talked a lot about evaluation, which brought a few staff on board. I’ve significantly truncated my evaluation “reports”; catchy headers, bulleted phrases, short sentences, and juicy quotes pulled a few more people to the bright side.

Cool Trick: More recently, I created a By the Numbers summary report for 2009, talked it up, then held it hostage while I conducted a contest. I asked staff to provide their “best guess” for a few data points from 2009:

  • Number of Website visitors
  • Number of hardcopy materials distributed
  • Number of respondents involved in an evaluation

Whoever came closest to the right number on each item would receive a bar of gourmet chocolate customized to their tastes – 75% cocoa with almonds; 30% cocoa with fruit, no nuts; 60% cocoa with organic mint filling, and so on. Suddenly, everyone was on board.

To some extent, the contest was rigged; anyone who had been reading my reports or listening to my highlights at staff meetings would have a decent chance at winning. I assured them I was not joking; I really did want their guesses if they hoped to see the 2009 summary (which some of them needed for annual reports).

As I expected, their submitted guesses were all over the place – with some right on target and some wildly off base. When I ceremoniously distributed the chocolate to the winners and drew salivating sighs from bystanders, I knew I had come one-step closer to staff assimilation into the culture of evaluation. I took advantage of their riveted attention to point out that the evaluation reports each contained at least one piece of important information important to every staff person. Later, I took each person aside and mentioned a result relevant to his/her organizational function.

My quest is far from over, but I feel optimistic … as long as my chocolate budget holds out.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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