IE Week: Ann Emery on Why I love Internal Evaluation

Greetings aea365 community! I’m Ann Emery and I’ve been both an external evaluator and an internal evaluator. Today I’d like to share a few of the reasons why I absolutely love internal evaluation.

Lessons Learned: Internal evaluation is a great career option for fans of utilization-focused evaluation. It gives me opportunities to:

  • Meet regularly with Chief Operating Officers and Executive Directors, so evaluation results get put into action after weekly staff meetings instead of after annual reports.
  • Participate on strategic planning committees, where I can make sure that evaluation results get used for long-term planning.

Lessons Learned: Internal evaluators often have an intimate understanding of organizational history, which allows us to:

  • Build an organizational culture of learning where staff is committed to making data-driven decisions.
  • Create a casual, non-threatening atmosphere by simply walking down the hallway to chat face-to-face with our “clients.” I hold my best client meetings in the hallways and in the mailroom.
  • Use our organizational knowledge to plan feasible evaluations that take into account inevitable staff turnover.
  • Tailor dissemination formats to user preferences, like dashboards for one manager and oral presentations for another.
  • Participate in annual retreats and weekly meetings. Data’s always on the agenda.

Lessons Learned: Internal evaluators can build evaluation capacity within their organizations in various ways:

  • I’ve co-taught Excel certification courses to non-evaluators. Spreadsheet skills can help non-evaluators feel more comfortable with evaluation because it takes some of the mystery out of data analysis.
  • I’ve also led brown bags about everything from logic models to research design. As a result, I’ve been more of a data “coach,” guiding staff through evaluation rather than making decisions on their behalf.

Hot Tips: Internal evaluators can use their skills to help their organizations in other ways, including:

  • Volunteering at program events. When I served food to child and teen participants at Thanksgiving, my time spent chatting with them helped me design more responsive data collection instruments.
  • Contributing to organization-wide research projects, such as looking for patterns in data across the participants that programs serve each year.
  • Partnering with graduate interns and external evaluators to conduct more in-depth research on key aspects of the organization.

Cool Trick: Eun Kyeng Baek and SeriaShia Chatters wrote about the Risks in Internal Evaluation. When internal evaluators get wrapped inside internal politics, we can partner with external evaluators like consulting firms, independent consultants, and even graduate interns. Outsider perspectives are valuable and keep things transparent.

Rad Resources:

AEA is celebrating Internal Evaluators TIG Week. The contributions all week come from IE 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 evaluator.

1 thought on “IE Week: Ann Emery on Why I love Internal Evaluation”

  1. Rahel Wasserfall

    Hello Ann,

    I was away when your post was published. This is such a good summary of what an internal evaluator does and why we love it. I passed it on to co-workers in my small organization and they were impressed. Thank you so much for your clear writing, hope to meet you in the future,

    Best, Rahel

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