IE TIG Week: Megan Grimaldi on Lessons Learned from Evaluation 2014: On Building Relationships as an Internal Evaluator

My name is Megan Grimaldi, and I work for the Research, Evaluation, and Innovation department of Communities In Schools. This year, I was happy to serve as the program chair for the Internal Evaluation TIG at the AEA conference in Denver.

Lessons Learned: One of my favorite things about the AEA conference is that it offers evaluators from all different backgrounds and fields to come together and share their experiences. As an internal evaluator, my favorite conversation by far was the conversation around the many hats that an internal evaluator wears, and how internal evaluators balance their desire to promptly assist their colleagues and their desire to focus on the evaluations for which they are responsible.

The conversation started during the Internal Evaluation TIG meeting. Someone mentioned the short timelines that internal evaluators often face. Because we are internal to organizations, our colleagues, who may be a desk away, often feel comfortable coming to us and saying, “Can you get this analysis to me by close of business tomorrow?” Not only are deadlines sometimes rushed, there are times when we can be asked to do things tangentially related to our work. For example, many evaluators are fluent in data analysis. For internal evaluators, some of our coworkers may not be sure how to use a spreadsheet; their specialties might be in working with constituents in the field, or marketing, or fundraising. With our specialized knowledge, our role of evaluator may quickly evolve into a role as a teacher or tech guru.

I brought this topic up in a fantastic presentation, Engaging Stakeholders in Internal Evaluation. Kristina Moster and Erica Cooksey from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and Danielle Marable and Erica Clarke from Massachusetts General Hospital, presented on ways to engage various stakeholders in conducting internal evaluation. They helped me reframe my thinking around urgent or special requests. It’s actually positive that coworkers feel comfortable approaching us. In some organizations, people do not even realize that there is an evaluator to approach! And if the task is not exactly “evaluation,” we can still turn the task into an opportunity to share ideas around evaluative thinking – and lay the groundwork for future evaluation projects. When you are an approachable internal evaluator, you build a rapport with your coworkers, and evaluation projects start to come your way. Communicating the parameters of your role will become easier once you have formed positive working relationships.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Internal Evaluation (IE) Topical Interest Group Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IE 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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