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Internal Eval Week: Four ways you can help your organizations use evaluation data effectively to make strategic decisions by Roxana Salehi

salehi-1Greetings from Toronto! My name is Roxana Salehi and I am the principal consultant at Vitus Consulting and a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Global Child Health, Hospital for Sick Children.  Today I will share with you four ways you can help your organizations use evaluation data to make strategic decisions.

Lesson Learned 1: Create your own business processes if none exist. Having clearly defined and agreed upon processes in place are essential for getting useful results that can lead to action. Evaluators can pro-actively help to create these processes. For example:

  • Create a Terms of Reference document, outlining the role of working group members, decision making structure, etc.; this will teach you a lot about how business is done in the place you are working. In some countries, you may have to pay people to attend meetings – good to know when you are setting your budget! See an example from the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health.
  • Create simple protocols to clarify who is doing what, and when, for key tasks, such as data collection. Protocol development makes you consider issues that you may not typically consider. For example, it may not occur to you that in some places certain documents need to be hand delivered.
  • Ask for time on the agenda of meetings, so that evaluation remains an organizational priority.

Lesson Learned 2: Build your utilization-focused philosophy into your plan. In your evaluation plan, list “Utility” as an explicit evaluation standard you want to adhere to.  Utility means that evaluation should be planned and conducted in ways that meets the needs of stakeholders and increases the likelihood of results leading to action. The evaluation plan can act as a strong reference document for bringing people back to the question of: “so what?”. For more on this, see Michael Quinn Patton’s Utilization-Focused Evaluation.

Lesson Learned 3: Let your stakeholders help you create meaning out of data. Instead of holding a “presentation of evaluation results”, consider convening a  “data sense making session.”  My experience? Stakeholders love it! It intrigues them; they come in curious and willing to help pull out the most important findings and actions that can be taken. Just make sure you have some worthy questions for your stakeholders, or else it will be just a presentation of results.

Lesson Learned 4: Stay on top of your game. And I don’t mean it just in terms of evaluation knowledge. That is a given! Also learn from data visualization and communication fields so that you can tell a compelling story that enables action. For quantitative data, I found Stephanie Evergreen’s Effective Data Visualization useful and I am still searching for good resources for qualitative data display.

There you have it. I’d love to hear about other ways you help put data into action!

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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