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Internal Eval Week: Communication and its role in the internal evaluation process by Stanley Capela

My name is Stanley Capela and I am the Vice President for Quality Management and Corporate Compliance Officer at HeartShare Human Services of New York.

I have been an internal evaluator for 38 years in the non-profit sector and have reviewed more than 115 organizations in 35 states and four countries as a Peer Reviewer for the Council on Accreditation. Through those experiences, I have come to realize the importance of communication skills in conducting any evaluation. I offer the following tips when conducting reviews.

First, be contextual. Take the time to understand the world of the program and, more specifically, the staff’s work. This context provides the internal evaluator with a better understanding on how to approach the evaluation and, more importantly, how to present the value of that evaluation and that it will have a positive outcome.

Second, communicate in a language that the stakeholder understands. Very often when conducting internal evaluation and presenting the results, evaluators get caught up in their own world and forget that the primary role of evaluation is to assist key stakeholders — specifically, the leadership –in developing a better understanding as to whether or not the program is achieving its goals. If not, what are the issues and how can the evaluator help resolve them?

Finally, carefully choose your words. The language that you use for your evaluation will impact how the stakeholder interprets your findings. Further, it also has an effect on whether or not you will face resistance to the evaluation. For example, when I conduct reviews, I like to use the word “challenges” rather than “deficits.” Also, stakeholders often view evaluation as a tool to identify program weaknesses, so I will make an effort to identify program strengths. These are basic strategies to ensure that stakeholders are more receptive to the evaluation.

Rad Resources: To learn more, I refer you to Michael Patton’s work on Utilization Evaluation and David Fetterman’s work on Empowerment Evaluation for further understanding on the importance of communication skills in evaluation. In addition, I refer you to a presentation that I made at last year’s AEA Conference titled, “Turning Communication into Collaboration: The Development of an Outcomes-Based Management Training Program.”  Finally, check out the Council on Accreditation website at www.coanet.org and look at their Performance Quality Improvement standard and tools.

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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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