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Samantha Grant on Baby Steps to Building Capacity

Hi, I’m Samantha Grant, and I work for the University of Minnesota Extension as a Program Evaluator for the Center for Youth Development. As an internal evaluator, building evaluation capacity is crucial for my organization (and my mental health!)

Building capacity doesn’t happen overnight, but with a few tactical strategies, you will be on your way.

Hot Tips:

Start where the learner is at. Before embarking on capacity building, gain a good understanding of the organization’s and staff’s competency in evaluation. Tailor training to the readiness of the group. Some learners may be ready for more advanced training while others are just getting a handle on the basics. Try to break people up into mini-cohorts to make the learning experience customized for your audience.

Build Confidence and Affirm Expertise. I work with an incredibly skilled group of youth workers who are naturally building evaluation into their practice without even realizing. We talk about all the ways that they are evaluating or reflecting in their program; how they present data to stakeholders; and how they improve their programs with participant feedback. Knowing that they already act like an evaluator helps to build their confidence in gaining more skills.

Get Creative. Use creative, hands-on strategies to get people engaged in the materials. I’ve found resources from people conducting youth focused evaluations to be especially hands- on. Materials created for use with youth often work with learners of all ages.

Structure capacity building as an entry to greater growth. As your audience becomes savvier with evaluation concepts, they will naturally make connections about how they could grow in the future. (This is without you having to tell them what’s next!) Capacity building has helped me to build trust and relationships with my colleagues, so we can ask hard questions in our evaluation. People begin to respect your skills and see you as a resource and not a threat.

Good luck with your future capacity building!

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