Hello, AEA colleagues! We are internal evaluators Taylor Harrell and Kendra Straub from the Metropolitan Area Action Committee on Anti-Poverty (MAAC), whose mission is to maximize self-sufficiency with families and individuals through high-quality programs and advocacy in our communities.
As a result of the disruption caused by COVID-19, our programs have been required to pivot in programming and service delivery to meet the community’s needs. We identified logic models as a critical exercise to support program innovation and strategic decision-making, which will better position us to address these unique challenges facing our community during this pandemic.
One of the essential resources we utilized was the Tearless Logic Model (TLM)*. The TLM breaks down the logic model process into a series of manageable, jargon-free questions and provides a clear step by step facilitation guide. However, due to COVID-19, we had to adapt the TLM exercise for a virtual medium instead of the traditional in-person group setting. We are aware that adapting evaluation tools and exercises for the virtual setting is a challenge many of us are facing. However, we successfully conducted the Tearless Logic Model exercise virtually with each of our programs. Below you will find key lessons we have learned along the way.
- Preparation matters. Before meeting with programs, we reviewed the outputs and outcomes currently being measured by each program. We used this information to create logic models of the programs on our own. While we did not show program staff these logic models during the exercise to avoid influencing their thinking, this step was crucial in our preparation. It allowed us to ask more insightful probing questions, identify blind spots, and clarify divergent perspectives.
- Display your work. The visual mapping that occurs during this exercise is essential in creating a cohesive group understanding of the program’s logic. Since sticky notes and flip charts were no longer an option, we used the screen share tool on Zoom to display the logic model graphic. As we discussed each area, we took notes on the graphic, and participants could track their thinking throughout the process.
- Manage your time – Zoom fatigue is real! The thought of being on a virtual meeting for hours can strike dread. Therefore, we ensured that the exercise ran for no longer than 90 minutes.
- Invite only essential program staff. In a virtual environment, it is more challenging to have robust conversations with a large group. Therefore, we limited participation to the program manager, the department director, and any other key decision-makers for each program. This allowed us to have a more focused discussion and use our time effectively.
While the widespread virtual work required for many organizations due to COVID-19 will not last forever, virtual collaboration is here to stay. As organizations grow and teams become more dispersed, it is critical that we learn to adapt our most important work to a virtual environment. We must be able to collaborate, no matter where our team members are in the world.
*The Tearless Logic Model is by Ashlee D. Lien, Justin P. Greenleaf, Michael K. Lemke, Sharon M. Hakim, Nathan P. Swink, Rosemary Wright, and Greg Meissen.
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