Welcome to aea365! Please take a moment to review our new community guidelines. Learn More.

OL-ECB TIG Week: Ten Tactics Internal Evaluators Can Use to Build Organizational Learning within Nonprofits by Gretchen Biesecker

Hi, I’m Gretchen Biesecker, Principal Consultant with Bee’s Knees Consulting LLC in Somerville, MA. Most of my work focuses on evaluation capacity-building with nonprofits. I’ve been immersed deeply in building culture and practices for organizational learning for over 15 years, both as an internal evaluator and as a coach to many internal evaluators. Based on my experiences in a range of settings, here are ten (among many more) tactics to build organizational learning:

  1. Form a data committee that includes representatives from different departments and roles. The purpose of this committee might vary depending on where your organization is in its data journey, but some functions might include: inspiring champions in non-evaluation roles to bring learning and information to others in your organization; data governance; and identifying areas of overlap and opportunity between evaluation and other projects.
  2. Fold data/results and reflection into existing meetings and structures. To help reduce the silo-ing of evaluation, look for opportunities to bring a data point naturally into staff and other regular meetings.
  3. Use consistent reflection questions and/or protocol. Consider using some predictable questions and structures that support non-data folks to have a “way in” to interpret data during longer data reviews.
  4. Set, share, and keep to a data schedule. To help avoid that “black box” feeling, create and share a data schedule with your organization that includes when tools will be ready (e.g., when a survey will open), when data will be collected, and when results will be available in which format(s).
  5. Be proactive. Share updates, findings, check in about data needs in your organization. People will appreciate hearing small wins or challenges you are working on and that you have their interests in mind.
  6. Express appreciation. Honor those who contribute to evaluation work (e.g., who help collect it) or who use your data. Not only will this contribute to a positive data culture and make people feel good, but it will also foster learning through examples.
  7. Share examples from other organizations/nonprofits. Our colleagues, who are not evaluators, put a lot of faith in us. Finding and sharing examples of how similar organizations have done what you propose can build confidence.
  8. Ask leaders in a range of roles to feature/share how they use evaluation in their work. This helps people see a broader vision of how they could leverage data and inspires data use.
  9. Learn by doing together. Work on tools like surveys, and get input on types of analyses, with folks who are not evaluators. Describe the why behind your thinking and ask about their rationales too. You’ll learn from each other, and the work will be more meaningful and fun.
  10. Add capacity with an evaluation advisory board. Bringing some outside evaluators (and community members) can help advance learning, adding diverse perspectives, experiences, and wisdom.

Hot Tips

Curious about how to set up an evaluation advisory board? Here’s an article about it in the Journal of Youth Development that I co-wrote with fellow advisory board colleagues. Although we focus on the context of youth development programs, the tips and examples are applicable to other settings.

Rad Resources

Here’s a helpful protocol that includes questions for data reviews from the Network for College Success.

I’ve found The Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making to be a powerful and practical book to help me frame meetings, data reviews, and other gatherings effectively. You can find more information about it, as well as related publications, here.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building (OL-ECB) Topical Interest Group Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our OL-ECB 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. 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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.