GSNE Week: Alice Walters on Stakeholder Engagement

I’m Alice Walters, a member of AEA’s Graduate Student and New Evaluator TIG.  I am a doctoral student in human services and work as a non-profit consultant in fund development, marketing, and evaluation.  Here, I explore potential pitfalls and recommendations based on experience with stakeholders for new evaluators.

Hot Tip 1:  Stakeholders are central to evaluation – include them in every step of the process.

This may be Evaluation 101 but it bears emphasizing.  Identify, include, and inform stakeholders.  Think carefully and critically about all involved parties in evaluation outcomes.  Leaving out key stakeholders may lead to poor quality evaluation in unrepresented perspectives.  Key decision-making stakeholders should be engaged in the evaluation process to ensure evaluation relevancy. 

Rad Resource: Engaging Stakeholders  This CDC guide has a worksheet for identifying and including stakeholders in evaluation.

Hot Tip 2:  Be proactive in frequent & ongoing communication to stakeholders.

Don’t assume that initial evaluation conversations and perspectives haven’t changed without your knowledge.  Frequent communication with stakeholders will alert you to any changes in stakeholder perspectives toward the evaluation.  Ongoing communication will also keep lines of communication open and inform stakeholders of evaluation progress.

Rad Resource: A Practical Guide for Engaging Stakeholders in Developing Evaluation QuestionsThis 48-page resource from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation covers engaging stakeholders throughout the evaluation process.  It provides worksheets and a range of useful communication strategies.

Hot Tip 3:  Take the time to consider stakeholder’s views at every stage of evaluation.

Stakeholders may be unclear about the evaluation process, its steps, and methods used.  Be sure to explain and continue to inform at every stage of evaluation.  As a new evaluator, I made the faulty assumption that stakeholder views were unchanging from initial evaluation meetings.  I also failed to use opportunities to communicate during evaluation stages that might have signaled changing circumstances from stakeholder response.  Evaluators should be cautious about assuming that evaluation environments and stakeholder views are static.

Rad Resource: Who Wants to Know? A 4-page tip sheet from Wilder Research on stakeholder involvement. Evaluators have an expertise that may require working away from direct stakeholder contact, particularly key decision-making stakeholders.  The relevancy of an evaluation requires ongoing stakeholder input.  Successful evaluation requires keeping communication channels open with stakeholders.

AEA is celebrating GSNE Week with our colleagues in the Graduate Student and New Evaluators AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our GSNE 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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