AEA365 Curator note: Back in January, AEA365 readers asked to read about how evaluators deliver negative findings to clients and stakeholders. This week, we feature 5 articles with four evaluator perspectives on this topic.
A client called after reading the evaluation report and said, “The data are wrong.” My curiosity rose, as well as my blood pressure, and I wanted to understand more.
Hi, I’m Chari Smith with Evaluation into Action. This phone call was a turning point in my understanding of how to shift clients to understanding program evaluation as a learning opportunity. The rest of the conversation goes like this:
Me: “Can you elaborate?”
Client: “Participants say we aren’t communicating with them about the activities. But we are. We cannot send this to our funder.”
My thoughts: They are in fear of losing funding. Emotions are driving their fear. How do I shift them from a state of fear to a state of learning?
©2018. Chari Smith. Evaluation into Action. All Rights Reserved.
- Validate their concerns: “I understand this is alarming to you. We will discuss how to use the data and share with the funder.”
- Educate: “The data aren’t wrong, this is what participants said. This means your communication methods with them need to change. Let’s discuss what that can look like. Instead of emails, how about an initial phone call to all nine organizations? Set up a google group so they can discuss as well?
- Collaborate: We worked together to create a one-page improvement plan, highlighting the finding and providing a brief description how communications will change, and then be measured. This was sent along with the full evaluation report to the funder.
- Funder was happy to see transparency.
- New communication methods worked, participants reported in later survey the felt well-informed and appreciated the change.
- Client was relieved (me too!), and leveraged that experience to secure additional funds by highlighting how they used data to improve their program.
Lessons Learned: Never, ever email a report. Always go through it with them in person first, and then email it after the meeting.
Rad Resources: I am passionate about this topic, it prompted a white paper: Building a Culture of Evaluation. Please let me know about other resources on this topic. Thanks!
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