5 Ways to Be More "Evaluation-Friendly"
When evaluation is done right, it helps you and your team achieve outcomes and fulfill your organization's mission.  If evaluation is new to your agency or your experiences have not been very useful, it can seem overwhelming and confusing.  With unfamiliarity often comes resistance.  So here are 5 ways for equipping your staff with the knowledge they need to "make friends" with evaluation and participate productively in your next initiative.  These strategies stem from the work of Dr. Hallie Preskill.*
1.  Hire an evaluation consultant who incorporates Evaluation Capacity Building (ECB) into their approach.
You want a consultant who provides more than the basic evaluation deliverables.  In addition to developing measurement tools, analyzing findings and providing reports, your consultant should help your team improve their evaluation knowledge and skills so that they are better equipped to engage in future evaluation activities.  An important part of ECB involves "in-process education" on evaluation terms and concepts, design and implementation, and application.  Particularly when your staff know how to apply the findings, they will understand the value of evaluation and your organization's investment in it.  

2.  Sign up staff for evaluation trainings. 
You will find at your disposal numerous courses, workshops, and seminars on evaluation.  Local colleges and nonprofit support centers provide great opportunities for service professionals to learn more about evaluation.  Whether you need a better general understanding of evaluation or specifics on how to plan and implement one, trainings are available for all levels.  For example, Claremont Graduate University offers on-line courses and webcasts to one-day workshops to certificate programs.  Places like the Center for Nonprofit Management in SoCal and the CBO Center in the East Bay offer half-day courses that can fit into a workday.  Another easy option - when attending conferences in your field, attend the evaluation topic workshops!

3.  Join a "community of practice."
Share evaluation experiences, practices, information, and readings with a group of compatible organizations.  Called "community of practice" or "learning circle," you can create one within your organization or with other organizations engaged in similar work.  These groups offer a unique opportunity to learn from your peers and receive mutual support.  Members direct the discussion facilitated by a professional evaluator.  For example, one session may be about the challenges of collecting survey data from hard-to-reach clients/program participants or another may be about ways to gain staff buy-in to the evaluation process.  Folks can meet weekly, monthly, or quarterly depending on schedules and preferences.  Start one yourself or link with others through your local foundations or nonprofit centers.

4.  Assign staff evaluation "homework" (e.g., books, articles, websites and/or e-learning programs) that will advance their knowledge.
Universities and foundations are often a great and quick resource for evaluation information.  For example, Penn Stateoffers free, downloadable tip sheets on a wide variety of topics, such as how best to ask about age on surveys.  University of Wisconsin-Extension has a program development and evaluation web-site that offers more in-depth but still easily understandable resources, ranging from How to Plan a Program Evaluation to How to Design A Questionnaire (free or low cost of a few dollars to download).  Foundations such as The California Endowment, and theW.K. Kellogg Foundation all have web-site sections with downloadable articles and toolkits to advance your skills for understanding and implementing evaluation.

5.  Discuss evaluation activities in staff meetings.
Include evaluation as a standing agenda item at staff meetings whether or not you are currently engaged in an evaluation project.  Regular discussion gives you plenty of time to answer questions and resolve issues outside of the evaluation process itself.  Like nothing else, talking about evaluation builds familiarity, advances skills, and develops an evaluation-friendly culture.  

We encourage you to provide your staff with incentives, resources, leadership support and opportunities to transfer their learning about evaluation to their everyday work. 
Share with us what you have done to make your organization "evaluation-friendly" and we'll pass it on. 

* The ECB strategies discussed in this article are from:  Preskill, H., & Boyle, S. (2008). A multidisciplinary model of evaluation capacity building.  American Journal of Evaluation, 29(4), 443-459.  Please
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