Internal Evaluation TIG Week: Evaluation for an Introspective Organization by Boris Volkov

Welcome to the AEA365 Internal Evaluation (IE) week! I’m Boris Volkov, the IE TIG Chair, working as the Director of Monitoring & Evaluation at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and a faculty at the Institute for Health Informatics and the School of Public Health of the University of Minnesota. During this week, our evaluation colleagues from around the country will share their tips and lessons learned related to internal evaluation (IE) and beyond. 

I would like to kick things off with a quick overview of IE as a special, matured subfield of evaluation implementation: a comprehensive and context-dependent system of intraorganizational processes and resources for implementing and promoting evaluation activities for the purposes of generating credible and practical knowledge to inform decision making, to make judgments about and improve programs and policies, and to influence organizational learning and decision-making behavior.

IE is typically guided and conducted by individuals who work within the organization being evaluated rather than by external evaluators. This can give evaluators a deeper understanding of the organization’s culture, context, and activities, and can facilitate collaboration and buy-in from stakeholders. However, internal evaluation may be supplemented by external evaluation, such as when organizations/programs seek an outside perspective or require additional expertise to conduct a comprehensive evaluation.

IE is focused on improving programs and processes within the organization — in addition to fulfilling external accountability or compliance requirements; it is an ongoing process rather than a one-time event — allowing organizations to continually assess their programs and make improvements as needed. Internal evaluation is expected to be integrated into organizational processes and decision-making in a way that evaluation structures, processes, findings, and recommendations are used to inform program design, implementation, and improvement, and are seen as integral to the overall functioning of the organization.

Internal evaluation and evaluators may face a number of challenges, such as resistance from organizational stakeholders, lack of resources, limited access to data, etc. To help internal (and other) evaluators overcome such challenges, here are some tips and resources: 

Perennially Hot Tips

  • Build strong relationships with program staff. By working collaboratively with program staff, you can gain a deeper understanding of the program’s goals, activities, and challenges, and can develop evaluation processes, questions, and recommendations that are relevant and meaningful.
  • Be flexible and adaptable. Often working in dynamic and complex environments, being flexible and adaptable can help you navigate unexpected challenges and changes and to adjust your approach to meet the needs of stakeholders.
  • Be transparent and communicate evaluation processes and findings clearly to help build trust and buy-in from stakeholders. Use clear and accessible language to explain what the findings mean for the program and the organization.
  • Foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Internal evaluation can be a powerful tool for organizational capacity building. This includes promoting evaluation as a tool for learning and improvement, recognizing and rewarding evaluation efforts, and integrating evaluation into decision-making processes.

Rad Resources

Stay tuned for more tips and resources shared by our internal evaluators throughout this week!

The American Evaluation Association is hosting 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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