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Vardhani Ratnala on Managing Conflict Following Negative Evaluation Findings

I am Vardhani Ratnala and work as a freelance consultant in Monitoring and Evaluation.  In this post, I would like share my experience of presenting evaluation findings.

Following an evaluation field visit, the findings are shared with the project management/implementing team. Quite often, when the findings are negative, it ruffles egos and leads to a conflict. Not only are the evaluation findings questioned, but also the methodology, and in some instances the credibility of the evaluation team itself is questioned. As a result, there is a danger that the evaluation findings may not be acted upon and it ends up being a ‘shelf report’.

Lessons Learned:

As an evaluator how do you handle this post-presentation conflict –

1)     Cool off – allow the implementing team to raise their objections. Do not react, respond!

2)     Ask them to go through the draft evaluation report thoroughly and see if the findings are justified.

3)     Set another date for discussion, in which you show them the evidence backing each finding. Following that, request them to divide their responses to each finding into those which are acceptable, partially acceptable and unacceptable.

4)     Ensure the language used in the report and in the discussion is positive.

5)     Throughout this process, reiterate that the evaluation was a tool for ‘learning’ and not ‘accountability’.

6)     For those findings which are unacceptable, include a section under ‘Management Response’ in the final report, explaining the conflict between the evaluation findings and the implementing team’s response. See table below –

RatnalaHot Tips:

1)     Ensure their involvement – it is important to involve the implementing team in planning and designing the evaluation. They should be kept informed of the evaluation progress and preliminary findings.

2)     Community buy-in – the evaluation team should have a de-briefing session in the field (i.e. with community members and other stakeholders) to ratify the evaluation findings. This would further strengthen their arguments.

3)     A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down – try to convey a negative finding in positive language. Highlight positives, leading slowly to negatives. Use a ‘praise sandwich’ (sandwiching a negative between two positives).

Rad Resource: 

Tips for Delivering Negative Results

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