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Internal Eval Week: Sue Hunter and Cindy Olney on Using Appreciative Inquiry in Evaluation

We are Sue Hunter, a librarian and the Planning & Evaluation Coordinator with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) Middle Atlantic Region (MAR) (http://nnlm.gov/mar/) at New York University, Langone Medical Center and Cindy Olney, Evaluation Specialist with the Outreach Evaluation Resource Center, NN/LM. Funded through the National Library of Medicine, NN/LM is a nationwide program for a network of health sciences libraries and information centers (called “network members”) with the goal of advancing the progress of medicine and improving public health through equal access to health information. The MAR supports network members in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

We embarked on a project of focus groups using Appreciative Inquiry to obtain feedback from network members on the NN/LM MAR program for the purpose of involving them in the MAR’s development of a 5-year contract proposal. Focus groups were conducted by staff who work in the NN/LM MAR program. Due to a short timeline, the focus groups were conducted online using Adobe Connect web conferencing software. The Appreciate Inquiry method was selected due to the format that would allow network members to focus their discussion on what is valuable to them within the realm of the MAR programs and services.

Hot Tip: Appreciative Inquiry is a useful tool for generating affirmative discussions in a focus group. Participants were able to describe peak experiences they had with the MAR program and services, and to pose concrete suggestions based on those experiences for future development in the MAR. We got the exact type of information we needed for our proposal, without a lot of “off-topic” discussion, allowing us to analyze the findings quickly and put them to use. The questions, which generated affirmative discussion, allowed for a comfortable and honest exchange between network members and the staff.

Lesson learned: The focus groups were conducted by the MAR staff. This allowed all staff to be included in the process and staff members obtained immediate feedback about their program areas directly from network members. The interview guide was simple and straightforward, so that even staff with minimal evaluation experience could participate.

Rad Resource: Adobe Connect web conferencing software. We conducted focus groups online using Adobe Connect which has a built in audio recorder. Sound quality is good, and the playback and pause options made transcription fairly easy. Conducting the focus groups online was convenient for the facilitator and participants. Adobe Connect is not a free tool, but one can request a free trial to explore its many options. http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobatconnectpro/

This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. Want to learn more from Sue and Cindy? They’ll be presenting as part of the Evaluation 2010 Conference Program, November 10-13 in San Antonio, Texas.

2 thoughts on “Internal Eval Week: Sue Hunter and Cindy Olney on Using Appreciative Inquiry in Evaluation”

  1. Hello Ms. Hunter and Ms. Olney,
    I am interested developing a greater understanding regarding Appreciative Inquiry in evaluations. I am interested in AI for the usefulness of creating generating affirmative discussions and being enabled to demonstrate areas of strength within an organization. My question is how practical Appreciative Inquiry in showing areas for improvement is? What tips or methods would you suggest as a key for creating positive discussions?
    I thank you for your time.
    Kelly Millar

  2. For those interested, the materials Sue Hunter used at her presentation on Using Appreciative Inquiry Focus Groups to Engage Members in Planning for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Middle Atlantic Region in Session 512 at the Evaluation 2010 Conference can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/HunterInquiry

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