Greetings, AEA365 readers! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. To whet our appetites for this year’s conference in beautiful New Orleans, this week’s posts come to us from the feature the perspectives of the Gulf Coast Eval Network (GCEval) members, where the uniqueness of doing evaluation in the gulf south will be on display. Happy reading!
Hello! My name is Albion Sumrell, and I work as an Independent Consultant. Specifically, I support schools and educational organizations with monitoring and evaluating their programming. My projects primarily focus on college and career readiness initiatives for youth and adults. I recently graduated with a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of New Orleans. My dissertation research also explored the impact of career readiness initiatives, such as CTE and work experiences, on assisting students in making career choices.
Sometimes, I encounter evaluation projects, in which stakeholders are distrustful of a program due to past issues with its operations. This was my experience with a recent project. It was further complicated by the pandemic. The project involved rebuilding a college and career readiness program for opportunity youth at a community college. This group of young people, aged 18-25, are under-educated and underemployed as they may have dropped out of high school or higher education and struggle to find lucrative careers. The community college’s program provided participants with a free course to teach them college success skills and career advising. Thus, it was expected that participants would be more prepared to pursue future educational and career pursuits.
Previously, the college’s implementation of the program had unsuccessful results. Many participants expressed frustration with the program’s structure and did not complete it. Additionally, the community partners, who recommended participants for the program, were dissatisfied and desired more support and guidance for future cohorts. Due to these issues, there was distrust of the evaluation process from all stakeholders (community college coordinator, instructor, and partners) in revamping the program with a consultant. Below are suggestions for building trust in the evaluation process:
- Take time to learn about a program and connect with stakeholders
- At the start of the evaluation process, it is incredibly important to review historical documents and connect with key stakeholders. This project had a quick turnaround, but I spent a month learning about the program’s prior challenges. I also asked all stakeholders about their ideas for improving the program, which provided an early opportunity for gaining their trust.
- Develop an informed plan with input from stakeholders
- Based on my review and feedback from stakeholders, I made sure to incorporate their feedback in the program’s revamped structure. When I presented the plan, I referred to their feedback in explaining the reasoning behind my recommendations. This helped to further gain their trust as they knew I had listened and valued their feedback in the final plan for operating the program.
- Communicate timely and consistently
- Once the program was relaunched, I met monthly with the entire team to provide pertinent updates. Meetings were concise as partners had hectic schedules managing their own programs. Between meetings, I checked in with stakeholders individually. When issues with participants arose, they were communicated and resolved immediately to prevent dropout from the program. This further gained stakeholders’ trust as I always kept them informed.
In the end, most participants completed the program due to its revamped structure. This project was a challenge as it involved both program management and evaluation. At the closing event, participants expressed gratitude for the resources and guidance provided by the program. This positive experience was further reflected in the quantitative and qualitative feedback from participants in the final evaluation report. By implementing the aforementioned practices, I was able to establish a trusting rapport with all stakeholders and assist the community college in redeveloping a program that would positively support opportunity youth in pursuing their college and career aspirations.
We’re looking forward to the Evaluation 2022 conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to AEA365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to AEA365@eval.org. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.