Oregon Evaluators Week: Navigating evaluation in the time of COVID 19 – an Oregon perspective by Kimberly Leonard and Kimberlee Salmond

Hi there, we are Kimberly Leonard and Kimberlee Salmond. We are pleased to kick off a week of AEA365 posts from Oregon evaluators.

We are both Senior Research Officers at Oregon Community Foundation (OCF). The OCF research team plays a variety of roles to support research, evaluation and learning at the foundation, including evaluating our own initiatives and programs. We are also practice partners in the Equitable Evaluation Initiative, which means that we strive to advance equity through our evaluation practice, guided by the Equitable Evaluation Framework.

As COVID-19 began impacting Oregon in March, our team paused many of our ongoing projects and shifted much of our attention to supporting the foundation’s rapid response efforts.  In doing so we leaned into our experience and expertise as evaluators, encouraging reflection and making space to document what we were hearing and learning. We also found ourselves stretching into new roles, helping staff review grant applications and think about how to monitor funding going out into communities.

By April, we began to formalize those efforts by putting together a plan to evaluate the foundation’s response to COVID-19 internally, with the purpose of 1) documenting the what and why of OCF’s response, 2) exploring organizational learning, and 3) supporting the application of that learning. We are using a developmental evaluation approach, and ultimately hope that the evaluation will help the foundation support more equitable outcomes for communities of color, low-income communities and rural communities in ways that promote a return to something that is better than “normal.”

Through this summer, if not longer, we are facilitating and participating in reflective conversations, capturing insights from our colleagues, engaging in collaborative sensemaking, and more. We are also sharing what we’re noticing with foundation leaders, often informally, as they navigate decision-making in a time of great uncertainty.

Lessons Learned: Developmental evaluation is not just about avoiding narrow, pre-determined outcome measurement, but about facilitating intentional reflection and learning in a meaningful, ongoing way. Our efforts to work alongside and in support of our program staff are propelling us as embedded developmental evaluators. We are living and breathing complexity and adaptation.

Rad Resources: Being in virtual community with other evaluators has been especially valuable for us lately. We have never been more appreciative of the camaraderie and thought partnership of those at other community foundations, those versed in complexity thinking, and those focused on equity as a purpose of evaluation. Here are just a few examples we’d like to highlight who have influenced our work:

This week, AEA365 is featuring posts from evaluators in Oregon. Since Evaluation 2020 was moved from Portland, OR to online, a generous group of Oregon evaluators got together to offer content on a variety of topics relevant to evaluators. 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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