Hello fellow evaluators! My name is Ann Price and I am President of Community Evaluation Solutions, near Atlanta, Georgia. A few weeks ago a friend and I spent the weekend in the Georgia Mountains at the Hike Inn, a state park only accessible via a 5 mile “moderate” hike. There is no cell phone, no tv, no internet. It was nice to disconnect and reflect on life and work. This blog about my reflections over the weekend as an external evaluation consultant.
My friend and I have found over the years that even though we work in different areas, our processes and our relationships with clients are quite similar. We both have a penchant for metaphor so we had fun over the weekend applying metaphors to our clients and our work.
The first thing we did was spend ½ hour just trying to find the trail head. I told my friend this was similar to programs not doing the ground work for an evaluation (i.e. failing to design a program logic model or a strategic plan or in our case, having the map but not following it). When all else fails, read the directions….
The hike was a lovely, albeit up and down trek. So the second thing we learned was something my son’s scout leader once said, “Everyone is on their own hike.” We reminded ourselves of that as folks of all ages passed us by (that was a bit discouraging). But the main point is to start on the path. Similarly, you may not have the biggest, most well-funded program. But it is important to start the evaluation journey or you will never “get there.” You do this by building your program’s organizational and evaluation capacity.
Tips and Tricks:
The hike was pretty steep at times, so we had to stop every once in awhile and catch our breath. We kept ourselves motivated by setting goals (Let’s just make it to the next tree! Think benchmarks and indicators). Evaluation work is the same way. It’s important to take a break and look at your data. If you don’t you might miss some pretty awesome sites (or findings). So stop every once in awhile and see where you are. Is your program where it needs to be? If your program is not, make an adjustment. And if you need help, here are a few great resources to guide you on your way.
Start with baby steps if you must. There are plenty of free resources out there to help you on your journey:
- W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Logic Model Development Guide
- CDC’s Developing an Effective Evaluation Plan
- Jane Davidson’s Actionable Evaluation Basics
- Stephanie Evergreen’s Evergreen Data Blog
- CDC’s Impact and Value: Telling Your Program’s Story
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