OL-ECB TIG Week: Value of a Peer Network for Evaluation Staff at Nonprofit Organizations by Shenandoah Gale and Andrea Scallon

Hello! We are Shenandoah Gale, Director of Evaluation & Learning at N Street Village and Andrea Scallon, Director of Measurement, Evaluation & Learning at Miriam’s Kitchen. We serve on the Advisory Council of Measure4Change (M4C) and wanted to share this Rad Resource that increases our capacity in the hopes that you can find ways to replicate our model in your circles, too.

Recognizing a critical nonprofit capacity need around performance measurement, Measure4Change offers nonprofit staff in the Washington, DC region access to a wide, supportive, and skilled network of evaluation staff available for consultation and collaboration, thanks to support from The World Bank Group and Urban Institute. The M4C Community of Practice (CoP) is currently made up of over 200 nonprofit staff who are interested in learning and increasing their capacity in evaluation and performance measurement.

Lessons Learned

Participating nonprofit organizations and members are at different places on the journey of evaluation. Depending on the size of the nonprofit, sometimes it is the executive director that participates and other times there is a dedicated evaluation staff team. In addition, many nonprofit evaluation staff are ‘accidental evaluators’; staff who may not have a formal background in evaluation and ‘fell’ into the position out of organizational need and personal interest.

Having a focus on building a community provides a network and value for nonprofit staff through peer-to-peer learning. Shared learning sessions greatly enhances opportunities for skill development, informal learning, and the overall capacity of all members by exposing nonprofits to tools to build their programs, making evaluation more accessible by helping members understand the range of practices, where they fit in this range, and how they can advance their programs.

Having evaluation staff introduce their work gives them an elevated forum of presenting their lessons learned to others, as well as sharing strategies and practices they have developed. This allows other nonprofits to hear what does and doesn’t work so that they can replicate. Some examples of this shared learning:

  • Workplan templates for evaluation projects
  • Strategies for data systems solutions
  • Organization wide Data Walks best practices
  • Multiple axis charts to show progress towards goals
  • Best practices to interface with required legacy government databases

Offering an email group provides additional opportunities for members to ask and share resources, job postings, and much more. This continued ability to learn from each other increases the capacity in each individual and nonprofit.

Rad Resources

Learning tools and briefs: Complementing the CoP learning sessions, these publications explain key concepts and address relevant topics.

Measure4Change Playbook: Resource designed to help nonprofits increase their capacity with practical recommendations and strategies.

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.

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