LaRED TIG Week: Building our culture of evaluation with high staff engagement–lessons learned from an internal (nonprofit) evaluation team by Alisha Garcia Flores, Vianney Leon, and Matthew Silva

(Spanish version)

Alisha Garcia Flores
Alisha Garcia Flores

?Buenos días! We are Alisha Garcia Flores, Vianney Leon, and Matthew Silva — representing an internal evaluation and data team at Enlace Chicago in the Little Village community, Chicago, Illinois.  Enlace Chicago is a community-based nonprofit that strives to build the capacity of Little Village stakeholders to confront systemic inequities and social injustices. We organize, convene stakeholders, and provide programs and services in the areas of health, immigration, education, and violence prevention. Our community is a highly dense port-of-entry for Mexican immigrants in the Midwest with a population of nearly 75,000 residents, which are 84% Latino, 39% foreign-born, and 29% non-citizen (ACS, 2017).

Vianney Leon
Vianney Leon

In 2018, Enlace began building an evaluation team as the organization experienced rapid growth in staffing and initiatives. Enlace values relationships, collaboration, and a deep respect of and partnership with the community.

When we began, we realized staff had more often encountered evaluation in a negative context, making it feel ‘high stakes’ and not representative of the community.  It took time to gain a sense of how staff viewed evaluation and what types of support and structures were needed.  Evaluating complex initiatives has meant developing an approach that is flexible, iterative, and engaging of diverse stakeholders. We’ve tried to ensure staff are highly engaged in defining our culture around evaluation.

Matthew Silva
Matthew Silva

How can internal evaluators create a culture of collaboration and strive for high engagement in evaluation? 

Lessons learned:

  • Embed yourself as a learner. Building personal relationships with staff to know us as individuals has been crucial. Learning about how the work is done, and the history of the work from staff, partners, and community planning efforts. In 2018, we conducted a staff needs assessment to help define our roles, work, and priorities as internal evaluators. Additionally, we strive to build trusting relationships with staff and partners to continue learning how our team can support the direct-service and initiatives.
  • Embed yourself as a team member. Being present. Our evaluation team attends departmental meetings, partner collaborative tables, engages in advocacy efforts, and community events. Staying informed of staff needs, capacities, and current priorities helps us determine how and when to engage staff in evaluation efforts. As we sustain our presence, we have become trusted assets to the “team”, which has led to stronger evaluation buy-in.
  • Create platforms for engagement in defining evaluation, We created a Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) committee with staff representation across departments to help us continually define evaluation culture, terms, practices, showcase examples, and help direct priorities and projects. Our evaluation team members are also engaged in monthly all-staff meetings, departmental CQI meetings, and leadership meetings to discuss evaluation.
  • Elevate CQI by learning from the data ‘in-time’. Some of the best engagement opportunities have come from the development and refinement of data collection tools, visual models, and collaborative data interpretation. Host data ‘parties’ to celebrate, learn, and identify areas of growth collaboratively.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Latinx Responsive Evaluation Discourse TIG Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from LA RED Topical Interest Group 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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