Building Capacity and Fostering Enthusiasm for Internal Evaluation by Chantal Hoff

Hello! I’m Chantal Hoff, Manager of Research and Evaluation at Children’s Health Fund and lead evaluator of the Healthy and Ready to Learn Initiative.

Working as an internal evaluator on a small but mighty evaluation team of two, I think a lot about how to extend evaluation capacity at our small non-profit, as well as how to increase buy-in and ownership of the evaluation among program staff. Here are some strategies that have worked for me.

Hot Tip #1: Explain the purpose of the evaluation and follow-up once it’s over.

I rely heavily on program staff to help me with data collection, and I want them to use the data we’ve collected to improve programming for students and families. When we’re creating a new evaluation, I make sure to walk through why we’re doing the evaluation and address questions and concerns head on. At the end of the evaluation, I share my findings with them in fun, interactive ways. I’m a big proponent of infographics and data viz as a way to make data engaging and accessible.

Rad Resource: I used Stephanie Evergreen’s data fortune tellers idea to share key findings from a comprehensive evaluation with program staff, and it was a hit!

Hot Tip #2: Add an Interactive “Data Corner” to team meetings.

I meet regularly with program staff to review monitoring and evaluation activities and priorities. During our hour-long meetings, I reserve about 15 minutes for data corners, where I give a brief tutorial on evaluation topics and engage staff in an activity. For example, I did a series of data corners on logic models, during which staff learned about the anatomy of a logic model and practiced building simple logic models related to their programmatic areas. Data corners give staff the skills to engage meaningfully in evaluation planning and implementation, and they give me the opportunity to address questions and give real-time feedback.

Rad Resource: I often use gifs and cartoons (e.g. from Chris Lysy’s freshspectrum blog) to add some humor and interest to my data corner slides.

Hot Tip #3: Hold a Data Awards Ceremony!

Celebrating the contributions of program staff is crucial to keeping them engaged in the evaluation, and it’s also fun. Our last data awards ceremony was in person, so I went to a party store and bought big, shiny stars in a variety of colors. On each star, I wrote the staff member’s name and gave them an accolade (e.g. “SurveyMonkey Superstar”). I decorated our conference room with a gold sparkly banner and some gold balloons. They were surprised and delighted, and hung their data awards on the wall outside their office.

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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