As new evaluators, we have interesting perspectives from serving on evaluation teams during our internships. We worked with The Improve Group colleagues and clients on projects for the Angel Foundation, the Highland Friendship Club, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. In our work, we were truly members of the evaluation teams: We designed surveys and conducted interviews, analyzed data, and helped clients understand the findings.
Lesson Learned: Communication is key
One of the main avenues to success in an evaluation project team is strong communication. That extends to sharing core values. If you’re working from the same premise to the same goal, you only have to figure out the steps in between, rather than also having to put in time to determine a shared starting point.
Aside from moving a project forward, we found that strong communication allows team members to learn from each other. Especially being new to evaluation, we really valued hearing others’ ideas on projects and learned a lot just from listening to what our team members suggested. We met regularly with organization leaders about our projects to co-develop ideas on how to engage clients – it was through these meetings that we, too, were able to contribute our ideas and perspectives to The Improve Group’s work.
Hot Tip: Take full advantage of bright, engaged interns on evaluation teams
By being integrated into The Improve Group’s project work, we were able to contribute fully to the organization. Often organizations delegate less interesting tasks, like data entry, to interns. And while that is an important skill to grow, and we did do some data entry, we also did a lot of brainstorming, problem-solving, and development of things that made a difference and contributed to the team – which is what we loved the most.
Working on projects as interns also allowed us to be contributing to a larger goal as we were learning. Take Audrey’s contributions to The Improve Group’s project providing technical assistance and program evaluation to Minnesota Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs grantees as an example. She had some experience with data analysis at the time, but not enough to think of half the things the team suggested regarding how to analyze, visualize, and report the information we had gathered. If she hadn’t worked on a team, she wouldn’t have been able to do the good work she did on that project.
Rad Resource: AEA’s Graduate Education Diversity Internship program provides paid internship and training opportunities during the academic year. Additional internship opportunities are posted on local AEA affiliate sites in April each year.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Evaluation Teams Week. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.