I’m Wendy DuBow, and I am the internal evaluator for the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). Anyone who has worked as an internal evaluator – or a long-term external evaluator – knows the importance of developing a “culture of evaluation” in an organization; however, staff enculturation is more easily recommended than achieved.
NCWIT a fast-moving, nonprofit organization staffed by really smart people that had no internal evaluation for its first five years. My colleagues like the idea of evaluation data; that’s why they hired me. They often say aloud that they crave evaluation data (OK, they use a different verb, but the sentiment is equivalent). Yet, they can’t slow down enough to hear or read the evaluation data, let alone apply it to future projects.
In my 18 months at NCWIT, I’ve talked a lot about evaluation, which brought a few staff on board. I’ve significantly truncated my evaluation “reports”; catchy headers, bulleted phrases, short sentences, and juicy quotes pulled a few more people to the bright side.
Cool Trick: More recently, I created a By the Numbers summary report for 2009, talked it up, then held it hostage while I conducted a contest. I asked staff to provide their “best guess” for a few data points from 2009:
- Number of Website visitors
- Number of hardcopy materials distributed
- Number of respondents involved in an evaluation
Whoever came closest to the right number on each item would receive a bar of gourmet chocolate customized to their tastes – 75% cocoa with almonds; 30% cocoa with fruit, no nuts; 60% cocoa with organic mint filling, and so on. Suddenly, everyone was on board.
To some extent, the contest was rigged; anyone who had been reading my reports or listening to my highlights at staff meetings would have a decent chance at winning. I assured them I was not joking; I really did want their guesses if they hoped to see the 2009 summary (which some of them needed for annual reports).
As I expected, their submitted guesses were all over the place – with some right on target and some wildly off base. When I ceremoniously distributed the chocolate to the winners and drew salivating sighs from bystanders, I knew I had come one-step closer to staff assimilation into the culture of evaluation. I took advantage of their riveted attention to point out that the evaluation reports each contained at least one piece of important information important to every staff person. Later, I took each person aside and mentioned a result relevant to his/her organizational function.
My quest is far from over, but I feel optimistic … as long as my chocolate budget holds out.