IC Week: Carlisle Levine on Finding Community as an Independent Evaluator

Hello! I’m Carlisle Levine, an independent evaluator specializing in organizational and advocacy evaluation, evaluation systems and evaluation capacity building. Having worked for international non-governmental organizations and the U.S. government, I am relatively new to consulting. One of my biggest concerns in making the shift was finding community.

Lessons Learned: The Importance of Community

Very quickly as an independent evaluator, I was reminded of the value of community.

  • I believe I produce my best work when I can think it through with respected colleagues.
  • I need colleagues when my projects ask for skills, experience and access beyond my own, or when I have more work than I can do alone.
  • Colleagues can also connect me to new projects.

In my experience, building community is a time investment. The rewards are undertaking bigger projects, benefiting from peer learning, and producing more creative and higher quality work.

Hot Tip: Finding Community

To establish community, I have used various strategies:

  • Reaching out to former colleagues and their colleagues;
  • Relying on AEA links and also on my local affiliate; and
  • Remaining active in professional networks relevant to my work.

Rad Resources: For some projects, I have partnered with evaluators working in countries where a project has taken place. To identify potential teammates, in addition to tapping personal networks, I have used resources such as the MandENews listserv and the website for the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), which provides contact information for national and regional evaluation associations.

Lessons Learned: Building Collaborative Working Relationships

I have found that most critical to successful collaboration is trust, based on shared values and similar commitments to producing quality work in a timely fashion. It requires sensitivity to time availability and financial needs. It is guided by clear scopes of work and reinforced by good communication. Agreeing to no surprises proves to be a helpful principle.

Hot Tips: There are a number of ways I have developed collaborative working relationships.

  • I start with a conversation about work experience, interests and styles.
  • Colleagues and I have reviewed each other’s work and provided input to questions raised.
  • With some colleagues, I have undertaken small projects that can test our collaborative relationship. These can be good foundations for future work together. If not, much has been learned and little lost.
  • With all collaborative relationships, and especially with new ones, I budget ample time for communication to ensure that we remain on the same page.

Rad Resource: Stephen Maack and Jan Upton wrote a helpful article, Collaborative relationships in evaluation consulting. My experience, described above, echoed their findings.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “IC Week: Carlisle Levine on Finding Community as an Independent Evaluator”

  1. I have been taken with the idea of community recently and see evaluation/assessment as tools that help build community with stakeholders. By doing evaluation, we help place/define/translate our programs and projects into terms our community understands and values. Evaluation takes our efforts and impacts bridges those to the expectations and needs of the community of stakeholders we are a part of. I am beginning to think in terms of a “community of assessment/evaluation” instead of a “culture” as it seems more inclusive of those we are trying to serve.

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