Chari Smith on Assess their attitude toward evaluation before you get started

Hi. I’m Chari Smith with CRSmith Consulting. I work with nonprofits in the Portland, Oregon area. I’ve been learning more and more about the importance of assessing the culture of evaluation within an organization before stepping into creating a design, data collection tools, etc.

Hot Tip: Before doing any evaluation work, do a brief survey via email with staff members involved with evaluation decisions, collecting, analyzing, and/or reporting data as well as development staff members. Ask:

  • What is your role?
  • What do you believe are the goals and/or outcomes of this program?
  • Do you have any concerns regarding the evaluation process?
  • What are you hoping the evaluation process will provide?

Are their answers consistent, or varied? This will give you an understanding of their attitude toward evaluation before getting started. If there is resistance, address that first and create buy-in with the evaluation advocates. If there’s no resistance, that’s perfect, and you can move forward.

Lesson learned. Make sure leadership gives permission to all staff members to speak their truth.

I noticed in meetings, staff members shied away from being honest if their supervisor was in the room. This is why I started with the confidential open-ended survey listed above. I also learned it’s important to talk to leadership about giving staff permission to be truthful, as well as state that in meetings to everyone to be truthful. If leadership wants to do a 4 page survey that staff would administer, be sure to invite staff to speak their truth as to whether this is feasible or not. It’s a balance – evaluation activities need to be both meaningful and feasible.

Rad Resource. Eva the Evaluator by Roger Miranda. This fantastic picture book depicts the world of evaluation in a fun, light-hearted way. Once I complete the design phase of a project, I give this to my client as a thank you. It’s a ‘now you’re in the evaluation world’ gift.

Rad Resource. Organizational Capacity to Do and Use Evaluation, New Directions for Evaluation, Number 141, J. Bradley Cousins (editor) and Isabelle Bourgeois (editor).  I can’t say enough good things about this. It’s loaded with cases studies and rich content around evaluation capacity building.

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.

2 thoughts on “Chari Smith on Assess their attitude toward evaluation before you get started”

  1. Hi Chari,
    Thank you for your post. I am new to the world of evaluation. I found your post very interesting, as I am trying to design an evaluation at this time for a course I am working on. In your post, you mentioned interviewing staff prior to starting to design the evaluation. Do you find you have to change your design or approach based on employee/organization culture/attitude? How does this look in reality? For my evaluation, I have found there are specific questions I am trying to answer, so even if the staff had a negative attitude towards the process, those would still be the questions that I need to answer. I guess the approach to finding the answers may change based on staff/culture of the organization? Do you have any insights into this?

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