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Internal Eval Week: Anthony Kim on Balancing Dual Roles as an Internal Evaluator

Hello, my name is Anthony Kim, and I am a doctoral candidate in Policy, Organization, Measurement, and Evaluation at U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. Prior to Berkeley, I worked at an Education nonprofit as a program manager that had to fill a dual role as internal evaluator of my program. As might be expected, my objectives as a program manager did not coincide with my objectives as an internal evaluator.

Below are some tips on how to manage this type of situation:

Hot Tip #1: Don’t let stakeholders manage the process: As a program manager, it is essential to keep a good relationship with key stakeholders to ensure the viability and success of a program. However, the presence of multiple stakeholders with competing interests can paralyze the evaluation process for program managers. While stakeholders should feel a sense of ownership in the evaluation process, the program manager/internal evaluator must be sure to not allow this sense of ownership to turn into a sense of entitlement in setting the future direction of the program.

Hot Tip #2: Assign managers to evaluate programs that they are not directly affiliated with: Often times, a tight budget will force organizations to fore go hiring independent evaluators, and to instead rely on program managers in a dual role. Organizations could mitigate the resulting conflicts of interest by assigning managers to evaluate programs that they are not directly affiliated with. As a side benefit, this type of cross-evaluation would allow managers to learn about programs they are not as familiar with.

Hot Tip #3: Don’t shortchange the evaluation process: Wholesale program change is disruptive, involves the retraining and hiring/firing of key program staff members, and is in general highly work-intensive for the program manager. As a dual-role program manager/internal evaluator, it may be tempting to conduct a cursory evaluation, and as a result leave your program largely unchanged.

However, shortchanging the evaluation process is a myopic approach. An honest, comprehensive evaluation allows for an opportunity to leverage a program for maximum impact. In my case, I managed a program that served at-risk school children, and there was a very real cost to any program shortcomings. Ultimately, it is important to remember that your program serves a certain constituency, and that settling into a “comfort zone” may be detrimental toward your program goals.

This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. Want to learn more from Anthony? He’ll be presenting as part of the Evaluation 2010 Conference Program, November 10-13 in San Antonio, Texas.

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