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

TAG | stakeholder

My name is Bonnie Richards, and as a professional with both experience and an academic background in Evaluation and Organizational Behavior, I have had the opportunity to facilitate the evaluation and learning process with stakeholders in many different industries.

Although my experiences have been unique across projects, I have noticed a common thread that ties them all together -besides evaluation, of course. Generating buy-in from stakeholders at the outset defines the entire evaluation process, and ultimately impacts the utility and sustainability of the project.

The following are some important steps that I use to create buy in with stakeholders and start the evaluation process off right.

Hot Tips:

1. Start by getting to know the program/process/organization better. For example, learn why an evaluation is being conducted.

–   Was evaluation required by a funder or stipulated in a grant? Has the organization secured funding because it is intrinsically motivated to learn?

 2. Explain what evaluation is, and what it is not.

–   The evaluator is not there to question the intentions or efforts of staff.

–   The evaluator is there to help answer some important questions that can help an organization learn what it is doing well, and what areas exist for potential improvement.

–   How do stakeholders feel about evaluation? Check for evaluation baggage and anxiety, and ask stakeholders to share what the word “evaluation” means to them.

3. Create open communication from the beginning, and include different stakeholder groups. Consider how you can include stakeholders in meaningful and engaging ways.

–   What do stakeholders want to learn? What questions are most important for them to answer at this point in time?

–   Stakeholders are experts in their content areas. Don’t forget to solicit and integrate their feedback.

By preparing stakeholders for an evaluation you increase the chance that they will be more comfortable and willing to ask questions and contribute throughout the process. This not only benefits the current evaluation, but can also increase their confidence and competence when entering into evaluation experiences in the future –and this also has the added benefit of making our lives as evaluators a bit easier the next time around.

Rad Resource:

Because evaluators work with stakeholders from various backgrounds and perspectives, it is important to think about how we work with these different groups. Adult Learning Basics by William Rothwell provides a theoretical and practical guide to understanding and engaging stakeholders in meaningful interactions.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Organizational Learning & Evaluation Capacity Building (OL-ECB) TIG Week with our colleagues in the OL-ECB AEA Topical Interest Group. 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.

Greetings fellow evaluators!  Our names are Veena Pankaj and Myia Welsh and we work for Innovation Network, a Washington DC-based evaluation firm.   While Innovation Network has always used a participatory approach to evaluation, we recently came to the realization that much of the ‘participatory-ness’ of our evaluation projects was limited to evaluation planning and data collection.  We suspected that an additional richness of context could be gained by including stakeholders in the analysis process.

We started by involving stakeholders in the analysis and interpretation of the data on a few projects.  This helped us move from simply offering a final evaluation report with findings and recommendations, to embracing a practice that brought the client’s own perspective into the analysis.

Hot Tip: In determining whether participatory analysis may be a good fit for your evaluation needs, consider the following questions:

1. Quality: How might participatory analysis improve the quality of findings/recommendations?

2. Stakeholders: What might be the positive outcomes of engaging evaluation stakeholders?

3. Timeline & Resources: Will the participatory analysis approach fit within the project timeline and available resources?

Our experience in using this approach has helped us with the following:

  • Present first drafts of data and/or findings, giving stakeholders the chance to provide context

and input on findings or recommendations;

  • Help sustain stakeholder interest and engagement in the evaluation process;
  • Identify which findings and recommendations are the most meaningful to stakeholders; and
  • Increase the likelihood that findings and recommendations will be put to practical use.

Hot Tip: Conducting participatory analysis can be tricky.  You are not just presenting ideas to stakeholders; you are facilitating a discussion process.  Make sure you have an agenda in place, specific questions you’d like the stakeholders to consider and clearly communicated goals for the meeting.  Having these items in place will allow you to focus on the richness of the discussion itself.

Rad Resource #1: Participatory Analysis: Expanding Stakeholder Involvement in Evaluation This recently released white paper examines the use of participatory analysis with three different organizations. Each example includes a description of purpose; the design, planning and implementation process; the effect on the overall evaluation; and lessons learned.

Rad Resource #2: Participatory Evaluation: How It Can Enhance Effectiveness and Credibility of Nonprofit Work For a different perspective, check out this article from the Nonprofit Quarterly. It discusses participatory evaluation practices in a community-based setting.

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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Hello, I’m Michelle Baron. I am the Associate Director at The Evaluators’ Institute (an evaluation training organization), and the Chair of the aea365 Tip-a-Day Team. Today I’d like to share with you some strategies for involving stakeholders in the evaluation process.

In today’s fast-paced, information rich world, one of the most helpful pieces of guidance we can provide organizations is how they can effectively use the vast array of data they have about a particular program, product, or process.

I have found in my work that integrating stakeholders throughout the evaluation process provides the needed motivation for stakeholders to use the information and to seek out evaluation training to build their skills.

Hot Tip: Provide stakeholders tangibles and intangibles with each step in the evaluation process. Instead of waiting until the end of the evaluation to provide information, updates, or reports that are several inches thick, we can show stakeholders techniques and the reasoning behind them with regard to the status of their particular project. The Chinese proverb says it best, “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.

When planning the evaluation, for example, you may provide stakeholders with a copy of the logic model, SWOT analysis, or other planning tools and information discussed in initial meetings. You may also provide them training on how to use that or similar information once you as the evaluator leave.  When doing data analysis, you may introduce stakeholders to various quantitative and qualitative tools and how they’re used within the given evaluation.

Hot Tip: Don’t be afraid to train the organization as you conduct the evaluation. While some clients would rather have you simply conduct the evaluation and depart, others are interested not only in findings and implications, but in the “how” and “what” of evaluation.

Ask yourself: What can you teach others, in the short time you have, to help their business improve – to open their eyes to new information?

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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