AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators



OL-ECB Week: Bonnie Richards on Setting the Stage: Evaluation Preparation and Stakeholder Buy-In

My name is Bonnie Richards, and as a professional with both experience and an academic background in Evaluation and Organizational Behavior, I have had the opportunity to facilitate the evaluation and learning process with stakeholders in many different industries.

Although my experiences have been unique across projects, I have noticed a common thread that ties them all together -besides evaluation, of course. Generating buy-in from stakeholders at the outset defines the entire evaluation process, and ultimately impacts the utility and sustainability of the project.

The following are some important steps that I use to create buy in with stakeholders and start the evaluation process off right.

Hot Tips:

1. Start by getting to know the program/process/organization better. For example, learn why an evaluation is being conducted.

–   Was evaluation required by a funder or stipulated in a grant? Has the organization secured funding because it is intrinsically motivated to learn?

 2. Explain what evaluation is, and what it is not.

–   The evaluator is not there to question the intentions or efforts of staff.

–   The evaluator is there to help answer some important questions that can help an organization learn what it is doing well, and what areas exist for potential improvement.

–   How do stakeholders feel about evaluation? Check for evaluation baggage and anxiety, and ask stakeholders to share what the word “evaluation” means to them.

3. Create open communication from the beginning, and include different stakeholder groups. Consider how you can include stakeholders in meaningful and engaging ways.

–   What do stakeholders want to learn? What questions are most important for them to answer at this point in time?

–   Stakeholders are experts in their content areas. Don’t forget to solicit and integrate their feedback.

By preparing stakeholders for an evaluation you increase the chance that they will be more comfortable and willing to ask questions and contribute throughout the process. This not only benefits the current evaluation, but can also increase their confidence and competence when entering into evaluation experiences in the future –and this also has the added benefit of making our lives as evaluators a bit easier the next time around.

Rad Resource:

Because evaluators work with stakeholders from various backgrounds and perspectives, it is important to think about how we work with these different groups. Adult Learning Basics by William Rothwell provides a theoretical and practical guide to understanding and engaging stakeholders in meaningful interactions.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Organizational Learning & Evaluation Capacity Building (OL-ECB) TIG Week with our colleagues in the OL-ECB AEA Topical Interest Group. 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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