Hello, I’m Jade Jackson. I am an Evaluation Specialist at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) in Baltimore, MD. My organization is a national refugee resettlement agency that provides social services to migrants and refugees.
I want to share with you some lessons learned from my personal transition to evaluator, as well as tips for agencies new to evaluation and evaluative concepts. I began my career in the programs department of my agency, so I had the background information of working with program managers. I came into evaluation because of my desire to improve the programming for the clients served by my agency. I currently serve on a two person team for Monitoring and Evaluation at LIRS.
- Start slow and small – Introducing evaluation into your agency culture can be quite the rollercoaster ride. It’s easier to agree with evaluative concepts like continuous improvement and learning, however there’s less likelihood for buy-in and more resistance when evaluation delves into data collections, definitions of goals and outcomes, and defining indicators. Therefore, be sure to allow for the learning curve and consensus-building that will be necessary in promoting evaluation in your agency
- Make it relevant – Evaluation provides opportunities to reflect on program design and how our interventions affected results. Use examples directly related to your agency’s scope of work to engage staff. Staff will value evaluation components if they see a direct connection to their program’s overall improvement. For example, after providing a general all staff training on monitoring and evaluation, my team partnered with a staff member from our Visitation program to provide a tailored webinar focusing on monitoring and evaluation, directly pertaining to the Visitation program.
- Talk about the beginning, not just the end – Educate staff on the importance of engaging in evaluative thinking from onset of program design. By bringing up evaluation at the beginning of a project, you can emphasize a culture that incorporates evaluation at all levels of program implementation. This creates tremendous insight when evaluating the project’s impact.
Hot Tip: Engage the champions of evaluation. These are the people in your agency who are excited about evaluation and come to you with questions. These people do exist. Encourage these colleagues to discuss their interest in evaluation with other agency leaders, who can use evaluation findings to make key management decisions.
Rad Resource: I have found incredible resources and solutions to problems by accessing my network at AEA. When you work with a small team, it’s important to look to other for insights and promising practices that can improve your work. Additionally, reaching out to others provides valuable feedback. Post your questions to the EvalTalk listserv!
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating SW TIG Week with our colleagues in the Social Work Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.