Hi, I’m Barbara Klugman. I offer strategy support and conduct evaluations with social justice funders, NGOs, networks and leadership training institutions in South Africa and internationally. This blog is about the value of establishing an Evaluation Advisory Group when your task requires more skills that you have!
I’m currently the ‘learning and assessment partner’ of Tekano an organisation which runs the Atlantic Fellows Programme for Health Equity South Africa. I have found this experience challenging, not least because it’s my first experience in long term developmental evaluation, because I have multiple accountabilities – to funder, Tekano board, and staff, as well as to the public good given the country’s desperate need for a strong fellowship programme on social determinants of health; and because my primary expertise is in strategizing and evaluating social justice advocacy initiatives rather than leadership development. Finally, I am a white older woman playing the role of ‘critical friend’ to an initiative whose staff and fellows are mostly black and young and whose advocacy experience is taking place in a vastly different historical moment from when I built such experience.
With these constraints in mind, when I developed my terms of reference, I motivated a budget to allow me to establish an Advisory Group. I sought members to fill three gaps in my expertise (that I was aware of) – an organizational psychologist whose expertise traverses organisational behaviour and monitoring and evaluation; a fellowship evaluation expert; and an expert in community-building and evaluation in the South African context.
I engaged the group to help me review the vast quantity of data and analysis I had produced in order to hone in on priorities for my final 18 months in this role, and to help me clarify how to manage my layers of accountability. It was fantastic!! The group brought totally independent eyes to bear on my questions. They helped me distinguish the nature and hierarchy of my various accountabilities. They confirmed my own conclusions on achievements and challenges thus far while hauling me out of the data, insights and relationships I was buried in. This allowed me to hone in on powerful questions and ways of asking them, for the second half of my tenure in this role.
I loved every minute of the experience even while it was exhausting and challenging. I would encourage you to build in space for this kind of independent support if you’re conducting developmental evaluations.
Hot tips: You have to be a fairly confident person to open yourself up to criticism. Choose people who are ethical and don’t have oversized egos!
- Building a formal advisory group into evaluation budget allows you to identify exactly
- what skills might complement your own, and to compensate people appropriately for their time
- My huge thanks to Drs. Jane Reisman, Mark Abrahams and Suki Goodman for their efforts on my advisory group.