SW TIG Week: Alicia McCoy on How to Engage Social Workers in Evaluation

Hello, my name is Alicia McCoy and I am the Research and Evaluation Manager at Family Life in Melbourne, Australia.  Family Life is a nonprofit community organization that supports families, children and young people.  A big part of my job is ensuring our practitioners (both social workers and other human service professionals) value and participate in evaluation.  In my experience, the second doesn’t always happen just because you achieve the first.  Here are some of my hot tips and lessons learned.

Lesson Learned:  Social workers are more likely to appreciate evaluation when they see the connection it has to evidence-informed practice.  Spending time and effort to create a shared understanding about how participating in evaluation is part of a social worker’s ethical obligation, will give you a better chance of getting engagement in evaluation activities.  I use an internal blog (called the Knowledge Centre) to explicitly and implicitly strengthen this connection on a regular basis.

Hot Tip: Two words – data visualisation!  Going the extra mile when communicating anything about evaluation will pay off in the end.  Social workers are more likely to engage with evaluation if findings are presented in an interesting and stimulating way.  Think color, interactivity and creativity, without a loss of meaning or rigour of course!  Check out the great work being done by Stephanie Evergreen and Ann K Emery for some specific tips.

Hot Tip:  Social workers are much more likely to engage in evaluation when the organization they work in has a positive relationship to learning.  Carrying out an organizational assessment using a tool such as Hallie Preskill’s Readiness for Organisational Learning and Evaluation will help you understand what your organization’s strengths and weaknesses are and how each might be influencing your social workers’ engagement with evaluation.

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 SW 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.