AZENet Week: Renewing Your Strategies for Meaningful Collaboration by Jenny McCullough Cosgrove

I’m Jenny McCullough Cosgrove (independent evaluator). I believe collaborative and participatory work in evaluation projects leads to rich learning. There are many ways to work with various stakeholders to support engagement and use in evaluation work and I am always adding strategies to my #Eval toolbox. Here are a few of my favorite ways to connect and communicate with non-evaluation folks.

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Cool Tricks:

Use journey mapping to build an understanding of a program or project. The journey mapping process is used in user experience regularly to map out interactions or journeys through an experience. Asking a client to walk through a conversation using journey mapping concepts can help you uncover opportunities for process evaluation as well as provide information for logic model/theory of change development.

Rad Resources:

  • For communicating with the community: Robert Brown of the Literati Newsline wrote a great piece, “Write Right the First Time.” Though aimed at academic writers, his eight-question structure helps me focus and prioritize my evaluation reporting based on my intended audience. Laptop, notebook, pad, binder, coffee cup, glasses
  • Listen to the Storytelling With Data podcast and start a visual journal using Observe, Collect, Draw! These resources have been fantastic for connecting my evaluation narrative to visualization.
  • Incorporate icons for storytelling into evaluation reports using these great free icons or through the newest version of Word.

Lessons Learned:

  • Establish a common vocabulary with your client right at the start of a working relationship and I tell my clients to “call me in” when I drift into evalu-speak that may be alienating or exclusionary to individuals in the conversation. This sets them up to feel comfortable expecting me to communicate in ways that support their learning and understanding, not in ways that situate my position as evaluator as the power-holder.
  • My supervisor in my first evaluation position taught me to have the stakeholders review and provide comment on my evaluation report before it is finalized. This doesn’t mean changing the findings/outcomes; this means ensuring that what you are reportable is understandable and usable. When appropriate, I often have key stakeholders sit down with me to review the draft report and we develop recommendations together. I also use the final report review session as an opportunity to facilitate strategic planning for the next year.

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Let’s continue the conversation! Tweet how you meaningfully collaborate with the non-eval folks you work with to #EvalTwitter.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Arizona Evaluation Network (AZENet) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our AZENet 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


1 thought on “AZENet Week: Renewing Your Strategies for Meaningful Collaboration by Jenny McCullough Cosgrove”

  1. Hi Jenny,
    I had not heard of journey mapping before reading your post. Thank you so much for providing a link to this helpful resource! I have also saved the “Write Right the First Time” article so that I may read it later. I am also very interested to check out the storytelling podcast you’ve mentioned. Thank you for pointing out that it is important to use client friendly vocabulary; I think sometimes it is easy for us to forget that others may not understand the terms we are using during an evaluation.
    Thanks again for the tips!
    Andrea Lopez

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