CP TIG Week: Steve Erickson on Evaluation by collaboration

I’m Steve Erickson of EMSTAR Research, a community/organizational consulting firm based in Atlanta. For the last 10 years I have served as lead evaluator for the Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP), a public/private nonprofit that supports a statewide network of “Family Connection” Collaboratives addressing child and family issues in all 159 counties. Georgia is the only state blanketed entirely by such a network.

We support local leaders as they continuously assess local data, identify key issues, plan strategically, leverage resources, implement plans, and evaluate performance. The soul of Family Connection is local autonomy with a nudge toward public/private partnerships, prevention, resource leveraging, data use and accountability. I hear an echo of community psychology’s respect for locality and promotion of mutual support networks, prevention, existing resource utilization, and research and action. Don’t you?

The GaFCP Evaluation/Outcomes Team is composed of a dozen evaluators representing five private consulting firms and the Georgia State University (GSU) Community Psychology and Public Health programs. A swarm of butterflies is tame by comparison but we manage somehow to get things done. Specific tasks are divided between two main activities:

  • Supporting local evaluation.
  • Accounting for effective practices and outcomes at local, regional, and statewide levels.

Hot Tip: Every couple of years our three GSU faculty members cajole a doctoral student whiz in methods and analytics into joining our team. Our first three went on after graduation to work for a major national foundation, a big state university and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – just rewards for the indentured time they put in with us. All three still contribute now and then to our work. These students get most of the credit for several journal publications, as well as a series of evaluation snapshots, produced in collaboration with the GaFCP Communication and Community Support teams and designed primarily for readers from local Collaboratives. Our recent format is to feature a finding, a local collaborative story illustrating the finding, and tips for how local readers might replicate the strategies involved.

Lesson Learned: I can’t say enough about how important it is for those evaluating collaboration to actually collaborate. Former Savannah mayor Otis Johnson, a pioneer of this work in Georgia, says “everybody talkin’ ’bout collaboration ain’t collaboratin’.” Our evaluation has flourished when we were fully engaged with other GaFCP teams and local collaborative members, staff and evaluators, and floundered when we weren’t. We are flourishing now because we have other GaFCP members on our team and they have say in our processes and products. We work incessantly to do the same on other GaFCP teams. We also include local evaluators in development of evaluation requirements and tools, and in peer reviews of products.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating CP TIG Week with our colleagues in the Community Psychology Topical Interest Group. The contributions all week come from CP 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.

1 thought on “CP TIG Week: Steve Erickson on Evaluation by collaboration”

Leave a Reply to R.sebastian Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.