How to Address Others’ Fears about Program Evaluation–Creating a “Culture of Evaluation” (Part 2)

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Sections of this topic

    Previously we covered part 1 of this post.

    Step 4: “Be the Early Bird…”– Plan Evaluation Early

    The best time to plan an evaluation is before program implementation has begun. Plan evaluation during the program planning stage. This helps reduce back-tracking and helps to create a culture of evaluation more naturally. This also prevents having to come in with dramatic changes later. People tend to resist change, and late changes can create even more resistance to evaluation. Dealing with such resistance can be likened to trying to turn a huge ship whose course has already been set. It can be a difficult task indeed, but if this where your program is at, it is still worth the effort!

    Step 5: “Get Everyone Involved”—Engage Stakeholders

    And now for what is the most critical point: engage all stakeholders throughout the evaluation process. A stakeholder is anyone who has an interest in your program—national staff, administrators, board members, partners, program implementers, volunteers, program participants, etc. Begin by asking away for their input. Do your best to learn from them. If they see no agenda being pushed and that everyone is committed to learning from one another other, they may drop defensive mechanisms and openness may gradually follow. Encourage open discussion of concerns. Sometimes enlisting your worst critic, given a certain degree of mutual trust, can benefit your program. Critics of evaluation can provide valuable, candid reality-checks. Due to the variety of interests involved, however, conflict may arise. People-skills such as conflict resolution are vital in your program’s evaluator.

    While being careful not to push an agenda, constantly look for teachable moments. A teachable moment, as you may know, is a natural window of opportunity that arises when the person might be more open to what you are trying to communicate. During these teachable moments:

    • share with them what others are doing based on your review of the literature
    • help them think of evaluation more as a way to improve your program and less as a threat to the program
    • help overcome their personal fears of negative evaluation results
    • emphasize how they will benefit from the evaluation
    • commit ahead of time to sharing evaluation results with all stakeholders in a readable format. Negotiate these agreements ahead of time with administrators. Sharing results can motivate some of your stakeholders to support evaluation efforts.
    • Promote trust among evaluation participants by emphasizing ethical treatment of evaluation participants– protecting their rights, confidentiality, doing no harm, etc.

    Again, the action steps are:

    1) Teach the language of evaluation

    2) Mentor and role-model

    3) Collaborate with like-minded professionals

    4) Plan evaluation early

    5) Engage stakeholders

    What challenges have you faced with getting others on-board with evaluation efforts?

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    For more resources, see our Library topic Nonprofit Capacity Building.

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    Priya Small has extensive experience in collaborative evaluation planning, instrument design, data collection, grant writing and facilitation. Contact her at priyasusansmall@gmail.com. See her profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/priyasmall/