I am Teresa McCoy, Assistant Director at the University of Maryland Extension (UME). I was hired 10 years ago with responsibility for evaluation and assessment across all program areas of agriculture, family and consumer sciences, environment and natural resources, and 4-H youth development. There was not a lot of evaluation knowledge and practice in the organization at that time, but there were many high expectations for what I could achieve.
In a situation of n=1 (me), I had to get started on evaluation capacity building (ECB). The critical decision was how to go about that work. Fortunately for me, four circumstances came together to point the way. First, the publication of a special winter issue of New Directions in Evaluation (NDE), “Program Evaluation in a Complex Organizational System: Lessons from Cooperative Extension,” provided much guidance to me.
- Michael T. Lambur’s 2008 NDE article, “Organizational structures that support internal program evaluation.”
- Ellen Taylor?Powell and Heather H. Boyd’s 2008 NDE article, “Evaluation capacity building in complex organizations.”
Second, I am fortunate to be married to a software developer who has deep expertise in human interaction design and agile and lean software development. Over the years, I peripherally absorbed some knowledge and listened to stories from his industry. I realized my strategy to build evaluation capacity in UME had to include one of the principles of agile management: “Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done” (Agile Alliance, nd).
- Read the Agile Manifesto Principles at https://www.agilealliance.org/agile101/
- Want more in-depth information? Read Learning Agile: Understanding Scrum, XP, Lean, and Kanban by Andrew Stellman & Jennifer Greene
Thirdly, soon after starting in the position, I began working with an agriculture extension educator who had a natural inclination for evaluation work. (In full disclosure, her area of expertise is agricultural economics.) A change in some of her position responsibilities gave us the opportunity to develop an official agreement that she would receive a small administrative stipend for taking on evaluation leadership in agriculture. With that guidance, many of our new Extension Educators enter the job with enthusiasm for evaluation as part of their work.
- The fourth and final circumstance, and the most critical, was that our Program Leaders/Assistant Directors supported me and the effort to build evaluation capacity. Without their support and leadership, building capacity would have been difficult, if not impossible.
About four years ago, UME added a Coordinator of Program Development and Evaluation (PD&E) to my evaluation department. Now, n=2, plus the rest of the capacity built within the program areas. I like to call my approach “Agile and Lean Evaluation Capacity Building” (AL-ECB).
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