Hello! I’m Silvana Bialosiewicz, a doctoral student at Claremont Graduate University and Senior Research Associate at the Claremont Evaluation Center. Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the relationship between evaluation and organizational strategic development, and how evaluators can support their clients by participating in strategic development efforts.
I’d like to share some of the valuable lessons I learned engaging in this process as part of a formative evaluation conducted on behalf of a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The factors that motivated me to build strategic planning into the evaluation were my action-oriented stakeholders and the Organizational Development expertise of my co-evaluator.
Word of Caution: As an evaluator, engaging in strategic development activities isn’t always appropriate. Let the context of the program, the goals of the evaluation, and your relationship with the organization be your guide when deciding if the situation lends itself to these activities.
Hot Tip: Start the strategic planning conversation early. In the evaluation planning phase, open up a dialogue with your client regarding their strategic planning processes, and the ways in which evaluative data could be used to create action plans, and direct energy and resources towards organizational goals,
Hot Tip: Build strategic planning into the evaluation contract. Knowing that these activities will take place from the start can help foster buy-in into the evaluation process and help the organization hold itself accountable to taking action based on evaluation findings.
Hot Tip: Develop personalized reflective self-assessment tools to support the process. Using the program’s theory of change and the evaluation findings, pose a series of questions to your stakeholders to stimulate reflection and discussion regarding where they are versus where they’d like to be.
Hot Tip: Be the voice of the data. If you find yourself sitting at the strategic planning table, speak on behalf of the data. As the evaluator you can support your stakeholders in making data-driven decisions by helping them continuously examine whether strategic plans are aligned with evaluation findings.
Hot Tip: Manage your expectations for organizational change. Understand that organizational development and change is a slow process and program stakeholders have competing priorities and busy schedules. Allow the key-decision makers to captain the ship and dictate the scope and timeline of the development activities.
Rad Resource: The Readiness for Organization Learning and Evaluation (ROLE) Instrument developed by Preskill and Torres is a great tool to help you and the organization determine if strategic planning is appropriate.
Rad Resource: Cassandra O’Neill recently hosted an AEA webinar on this topic entitled The Intersection of Evaluation and Strategy. This quick presentation provides an interesting perspective on the topic, as well as additional resources for interested parties.
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