My name is Andrew Anderson and I’m the manager of an internal evaluation team in one of Australia’s largest charities, The Benevolent Society. One of our guiding principles is to make our evaluations useful. But when we surveyed our 800 staff two years ago they told us that, although they valued evaluation, they didn’t think the way our organisation delivers services had changed much as a result. This made us realise there’s an important role for internal evaluators in supporting and monitoring the implementation of evaluation recommendations. Here are some hot tips and lessons we’ve learned.
- A culture of evaluation needs to be modelled at every level of the organisation.
- Evaluation recommendations will only be implemented if managers and service staff feel a sense of ownership over them and are involved in developing them. We learned, for example, that although it’s vital to have the support of the CEO and Senior Executives, middle management must also be brought into the process.
- Use a range of techniques to involve staff in the process and build their evaluation knowledge and skills at all points in the evaluation process, not just at the stage of generating recommendations. For example, we do this by including staff on evaluation reference groups, training staff in the collection and analysis of data, and involving staff in the development of evaluation questions and plans.
- Where possible, also involve staff in the analysis and interpretation of evaluation data. We do this by holding a one-day workshop with staff, and by the end of the day we have a set of agreed recommendations that are directly linked to the findings.
There is lots of literature on evaluation capacity building. We like Volkov and King’s evaluation checklist for building organisational evaluation capacity, and Preskill and Torres’ various publications on organisational evaluation capacity building. We particularly like Hallie Preskill’s book Building evaluation capacity: 72 activities for teaching and training. Her evaluating a chocolate chip cookie exercise is a great way of breaking the ‘evaluation ice.’
We learned the hard way that having an organisational evaluation policy and related procedures is crucial to ensure accountability for implementing recommendations. An evaluation policy should be clear on roles and responsibilities of all staff involved, and include procedures for monitoring the implementation of recommendations.
There are some good examples of evaluation policies whose adoption may allow organizations to implement of evaluation recommendations. This brief paper by the UN outlines what an evaluation policy should contain and has links to examples.
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