SIM TIG Week: Corporate Monitoring & Evaluation: Setting Up a CoP to Tackle Challenges of an Emerging Practice by Sasha Zoueva

Hi! I am Sasha Zoueva, Senior Evaluation Manager, Johnson & Johnson. As part of our Global Community Impact team, I am responsible for evaluation of hundreds of grants, several impact investments and employee engagement projects, plus our product donations and disaster response initiatives. Evaluation is often intellectually exciting and challenging. In a corporate environment, we have unique challenges linked to accountability (including to communities, customers, employees, shareholders), external data audits, and to evaluating programs done by employees, while also serving employees. But corporate M&E teams are small, with few resources and brainstorming opportunities.

Because M&E is not (yet) the main topic of conversation in larger corporate responsibility forums, J&J took the initiative of setting up a Community of Practice (CoP) specifically for M&E professionals in the corporate giving sectors—both corporate foundations and corporate responsibility departments.

Meeting under Chatham House Rule, this CoP aims to identify best practices, facilitate learning, and improve the overall ability of the corporate sector to responsibly and thoughtfully evaluate and report on its social impact. Hot tips and lessons from our first year include:

Hot Tips:

  1. A landscape analysis helps: We conducted a benchmarking survey to gauge, among other topics, interest in forming a CoP.
  2. Engage a support organization: Establishing a CoP is a heavy lift, especially for a lone evaluation person, spread thin. Based on best practices for building a CoP, we appointed an organization (TCC Group) to moderate and  provide organizational support.
  3. Draft and adopt operating principles: These provide transparency for a growing CoP by outlining the goals and rules of engagement.
  4. Rotate leadership: Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott and William Synder write about the importance of keeping a CoP ‘alive.’ We try to embody that principle by rotating leadership of the CoP quarterly meetings.
  5. Balance the topics: By structuring each meeting around either a more theoretical topic or a more practical topic, we tackle the meatier issues that may not have an immediate resolution and also share practical tips.  

Lessons Learned:

  1. Expect half of those who express interest to actually attend each time, and that’s OK— as Wenger and colleagues state, having more peripheral participants is an essential dimension of CoPs.
  2. There is no perfect platform to share documents and have impromptu conversations as Corporate IT policies make platforms like Slack difficult to implement. Our CoP communicates via email and uses GoogleDocs for document storage. Figuring out how to cultivate conversations and relationships offline is a challenge we struggle with.

Rad Resource:

CECP’s Giving in Numbers 2020 benchmarking report shows outcome measurement  in corporate foundations is rising.

Our CoP is proving to be a useful space for understanding specific impact measurement  needs in a corporate sphere and for bonding over shared challenges. We hope it will continue to provide a safe space where we can start solving those challenges and develop best practices. If you are an M&E professional in a corporate setting and would like to help, please get in touch!

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Social Impact Measurement Week with our colleagues in the Social Impact Measurement Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our SIM TIG 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

2 thoughts on “SIM TIG Week: Corporate Monitoring & Evaluation: Setting Up a CoP to Tackle Challenges of an Emerging Practice by Sasha Zoueva”

  1. Thanks for the comment and words of encouragement, Angelica! That’s what we thought too — rotating leadership also allows for additional buy-in and ensures balance of perspectives; it has proven to be a useful approach in many ways.

  2. Hello Sasha,
    Taking the initiative to build a forum to communicate and talk about problems to potentially solve, especially with the conditions we live in nowadays (Covid) is challenging but it can still be rewarding. I think is a good idea to rotate leadership from time to time so that everyone gets the opportunity to work and grow from the experience.

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