SCEA Week: Connie Hoskins on Managing a Project Remotely

I am Connie Hoskins, a Research Associate at Vital Research, a research and evaluation consulting firm in the education, health, social services, aging services, and corporate sectors. Although we are based in Los Angeles, we conduct a great deal of our work in other states and nationwide. In one biennial project, we conduct interviews with residents at every long-term care facility in the state of Ohio—33,000 interviews total. We manage these projects – and our field staff – remotely from our office in Los Angeles and have learned some valuable lessons about building teams and meeting client needs from a distance.

Lesson Learned  – Create the illusion that your office is right next door: We work the same hours as our clients and our field staff—6 AM to 2:30 PM for clients on Eastern time and 7 AM to 3:30 PM for clients on Central time—so we are available when they need to reach us. When we receive a call from a client or team member, we drop what we are doing, listen to the question or concern, and immediately work to resolve the issue. Being “in the moment” when communicating with a client or teammate sends the message “we’re in this together” and makes them feel as if we’re not so far away.

Hot Tip – Use collaboration software to connect your team: We have over 50 staff collecting data in the field at any given time and we use to collaborate with them. We personalize a Hub with contact information and a project calendar, and use it to share documents and discuss ideas. Fifty team members can’t actively participate in a conference call, but they can actively participate in a virtual network by posting to a message board and reading updates.

Lesson Learned – Value your team’s experiences: We solicit feedback and testimonials from our field staff and share them with the project team in the form of a weekly newsletter. Sharing experiences and lessons learned helps data collectors feel less isolated and fosters teamwork. We also include a data collection progress bar and relevant tips and reminders.

Lesson Learned – Recognize when you need to meet face-to-face: When you are working with a client for the first time, building relationships within a team, or working in a highly political climate, a face-to-face meeting is well worth the time and money. It helps everyone feel more comfortable and provides an opportunity to build rapport and trust.

Rad Resource for Visitors: While visiting Southern California for the AEA conference, check out LA Weekly ( to find out about events, restaurants and concerts.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating this week with our colleagues at the Southern California Evaluation Association (SCEA), an AEA affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SCEA 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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