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The Improve Group Week: Introducing The Improve Group by Leah Goldstein Moses

My name is Leah Goldstein Moses, and I am incredibly lucky to lead the talented team at The Improve Group as our founder and CEO. Seventeen years ago, the Lakers beat the Pacers in the NBA finals, technology stocks took a beating, an extremely close election led to examination of paper ballots in Florida, and The Improve Group started in the living room of my second-floor duplex unit.

In the years since, The Improve Group has grown from an independent consultancy to a network of evaluators to an in-depth practice working all over the world — and we keep evolving. What has stayed constant? An emphasis on evaluation use. An attention to rigor and engagement. And an intentional use of values to guide our work and interactions.

In the last few years, several factors affecting our work have driven us to take a fresh look at our practice and focus on how we collaborate with our clients and communities.

Lesson Learned: Using a community-responsive approach. We have learned a lot from people doing culturally-responsive, indigenous, and empowerment evaluations. Community-responsive approaches are used when there are multiple factors (e.g., income, gender, education, ethnicity, age) that have an impact on how an initiative is perceived, implemented, and performs. In a community-responsive approach, members of the community help to design, implement, and use evaluation.

Rad resources: Dr. Nicole Bowman has been a wonderful mentor to me in understanding how culture, power, and interjurisdictional governance influence work. Her recent AEA365 blog had many fabulous resources. And CREA’s research, training, and resources have been helping evaluators work from a culturally-specific perspective for nearly two decades.

Lesson Learned: We are using evaluation capacity building across a very broad spectrum – from specific professional development for practicing evaluators, to working with program staff who use and contribute to evaluation, to helping community members exercise power in an evaluation. We’ve come to think about capacity building as consisting of tools, practices, and knowledge.

Rad resources: We are impressed by the cohort model being used by the Scattergood Foundation in its Building Evaluation Capacity Initiative.

Hot Tip: To work effectively in diverse communities, the evaluation field needs to represent these communities. We prioritize hiring candidates from populations that are underrepresented in evaluation; in particular, people of color, people with disabilities, and people who are GLBT. We have transformed our evaluation internship program to specifically target these groups.

Rad resource: One of our first steps was to partner with AEA’s Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) to prepare for and recruit intern candidates. They helped us think about what we needed to do to welcome and support interns, and we’ve used those lessons in subsequent years.

The American Evaluation Association is highlighting the work of The Improve Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from staff of The Improve Group. 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.

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