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IE Week: Alicia McCoy on Using an Internal Blog to Support a Research and Evaluation Culture

My name is Alicia McCoy and I am the Research and Evaluation Manager at Family Life in Melbourne, Australia.  Family Life is a community service organization that offers a diverse range of services for families, children and young people, including family support, counseling, and mediation.

In 2009, Family Life established an internal research and evaluation unit. But building a culture that supports evaluation didn’t follow automatically. It’s taken time, patience, focus, and even a little humour.  It’s important to regularly communicate with staff about the value of research and evaluation.  Here are some of my tips and lessons learned for doing this well.

Lesson learned: It helps to have a channel 

The creation of an internal research and evaluation blog in early 2011 turned out to be one of the greatest contributors to the growing research and evaluation culture at Family Life.  Make your blog highly visible and easily accessible to staff.  Update it regularly to keep it fresh and interesting.

Lesson learned:  Think outside the square

Blogs can be used for much more than just posting and comments.  Ours includes current research and policy information, case studies, program evaluation summaries, an acknowledgements register, key resources, relevant links, and even competitions.  It is a one-stop-shop for anything related to research and evaluation.

Hot tip: Be interactive

All staff members are encouraged to interact with the blog by guest-blogging on topics of interest to them and their work, and by commenting on and discussing the contributions of others.  These entries have been some of the most popular and have motivated others to give it a go.  Have a support process in place for those who are less confident with their blogging skills.

Hot tip: Be creative to boost relevance

Our blog delivers research and evaluation to staff in informal and creative ways. Examples include using a media story to provide context for a piece about a current policy initiative, or using an anecdote to provide the ‘hook’ for an entry on a current research study.  Feedback from staff suggests that these kinds of approaches help them better understand research and evaluation and makes it more interesting. The upshot: they are more likely to use information from evaluations and research studies.

Hot tip: Evaluate your own progress

It can take several months or longer for a blog to become part of a culture, especially if your organization is new to blogging.  It is important to regularly measure the popularity and use of the blog to see how you’re tracking.  Successful blogs will gradually increase the number of monthly visits until the majority of staff are engaged.

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