Hello! I’m Christy Metzler, Director, Program Evaluation for NeighborWorks America®, a Congressionally chartered community development intermediary. As an internal evaluator, I often work closely with program staff to generate actionable learning about our programs and services. I find that more meaningful participation of the program staff throughout the evaluation process promotes richer strategic conversations, yields actionable and useful recommendations, and ultimately contributes to organizational effectiveness and impact.
Hot Tip #1: Connect to business planning. Work with program staff to identify where they are in their business planning cycle and be intentional in connecting evaluation findings to the business plan. Participatory sense-making sessions can be a natural launch pad for discussing program strategy and business plan priorities. Allow the time and space for these discussions.
Hot Tip #2: Make it inclusive. In designing evaluation efforts, find ways to include program staff across multiple levels of the organizational structure, from senior vice president to line staff. Each position has a unique perspective to offer and can expose challenges that may not be evident to others.
Hot Tip #3: Imbed program staff. Solicit a program operations staff member to play a key role with the data collection or other evaluation activities where possible. Not only does the involvement in the evaluation effort build evaluation capacity, but it also lends greater credibility to the effort, increases ownership of the process and can better support program staff in making program improvements after the evaluation is completed.
Lesson Learned: Remain flexible and responsive to program staff. In a recent evaluation effort, what started out as an implementation review expanded, upon the staff’s suggestion, to include a review of business data being regularly used and strategic conversations taking place in order to identify knowledge gaps and barriers to implementation of business plans. As a result, the evaluation was more relevant and useful for business planning efforts.
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