Post-Eval Action Plan Week: Engaging Stakeholders in Action Planning by Amy Griffin

My name is Amy Griffin, Senior Evaluation Consultant at The Consultation Center at Yale.  In my role as an external evaluator, I use a variety of tools to engage clients and other stakeholders in evaluation design, implementation, and utilization of findings. Admittedly, I had not given the action plan much consideration in my work with clients until it became a required deliverable from a funder. In fact, I remember rolling my eyes and thinking, “I am going to put a lot of time into something that no one is going to use.” I decided to approach the action plan like my consulting; using a participatory and empowerment framework and I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. By engaging the team in all aspects of action planning, they made the action plan their own and rely on it to drive program improvement.

Hot Tip: Below are some tips for effective action planning.

  1. Before you engage in action planning, have a data party.  We held a data party with a group of diverse stakeholders using recommendations from key informants about their experiences using asthma surveillance data.
  2. Develop a framework for using the data in action planning. After the group had reviewed and summarized the findings, we then asked them to identify prioritization criteria with which to rank the recommendations. The group chose time (how much time it would take to implement the recommendations), money (how much it cost to implement), resources (what resources would be needed to implement), and impact (the degree to which implementing the recommendation would benefit surveillance users).
  3. Prioritize. We used the prioritization criteria above to rank (via discussion and voting) each recommendation using A (top priority and feasible) to C (important but not feasible at this time).
  4. Involve stakeholders in the development of the action planning template. There are many examples of action plans available to use as a resource to get started. We provided our group with examples of action planning templates and asked them which areas they would like to include in their own action plan. We also modified the language when necessary so that everyone had a clear understanding of terms used.
  5. Establish regular check-ins to review the action plan as a group. This project is a multi-year project with the funder and we include action plan implementation updates on our monthly calls. Consider implementing a check-in system with your team that will ensure that the action plan remains a useful tool.

Rad Resource: This one-page tip sheet on how to host a data party lists lists some of the who, what, when, where, why, and how’s of holding your own data party.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Post Evaluation Action Planning Week. All posts this week are contributed by evaluators who came together to write about a simple, but rarely-used tool for encouraging the use of evaluation findings by decision-makers – the action plan. 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.

2 thoughts on “Post-Eval Action Plan Week: Engaging Stakeholders in Action Planning by Amy Griffin”

  1. KAREN GEORGACACOS

    Dear Ms. Griffen,
    Your article really made me reflect on my own learning over the course of the masters class I am currently part of. We have studied how to implement action plans and at first I too thought they were going to be a lot of work with little interest from others. However, I was wrong as well. I learned that it is very important to include the stakeholders in the discussion. I work at a middle school and I know that when we as teachers are included in decision making we “buy in” to the implementation. You mentioned, “by engaging the team in all aspects of action planning, they made the action plan their own and rely on it to drive the program improvement.” Truer words have not been spoken. People want a voice if they are in charge of facilitation or on the receiving end of facilitation.

    I really liked the simple format you used regarding the five hot tips. The data party was a strategy that I had never heard of before and thought it would be fun. I imagine a data party with teachers, providing food to eat for them you would have a lot of participation. I am wondering how you check in to monitor effectiveness?

    Karen

  2. Dear Ms. Griffin,

    Thank you for your very thoughtful article on engaging stakeholders in action planning. Not only did I find it very useful to my own learning, but also I appreciate the tools and tips you have provided, as they will certainly help with a course I am currently taking in Program Inquiry and Evaluation. I agree with what you say that engaging the whole team in all aspects of action planning will propel the plan further and will drive people to improve the program. As a teacher, I have found that involving my students in all steps of the evaluation process not only improves their engagement, but also consistently reminds them of what we are all working towards.

    I particularly enjoyed reading the five tips you provided as a framework for effective action planning. Having a data party, developing a framework for using the data in action planning, prioritizing criteria, involving the stakeholders, and having regular check-ins to review the data, all seem like reasonable and achievable steps to improve action planning. The concept of a “data party” is new to me and upon further investigation through the link you provided, I can see how it lends itself to a more participatory approach that involves the stakeholders. I will definitely take your five steps into consideration as I prepare my own evaluation plan for the course I am currently taking.

    Once again, thank you for your post!

    Lucia

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