The natural sciences have recently ramped up their use of members of communities in areas they are studying by using citizen scientists for data collections and (sometimes) analysis. Project using citizen scientists have seen positive outcomes beyond the specific research science, as citizens increase in knowledge, scientific literacy, and community engagement.
It follows then, that we can do the same in evaluation, using a Citizen Evaluation Team. Collaborative and participatory evaluation already engage the community in the evaluation practice. Using the framework of a Citizen Evaluation Team places the evaluator necessarily as a coach/trainer/and facilitator to support the skill-building of the citizen evaluators. This provides a paradigm shift in the current power structures in many evaluations. The evaluator is now tasked with supporting the development of rigorous thinking and providing opportunities for practices and iteration led by the citizens.
I am excited to begin a project with Harmony Project Phoenix, an arts-focused youth development program located in Phoenix, AZ, using the Citizen Evaluation Team model. Over the next year, I will provide emerging lessons to refine this model. Stay tuned for some evaluation fun!
Collaborative work on any project can be difficult, and the level of challenge increases with complexity. I have found an easy to implement strategy for role clarity, decision-making, and task assignment is to create a task/decision-making matrix. In a few easy steps, you will find yourself with an easy to reference and easy to share document. You may also find the process of creating the matrix uncovers emerging concerns or unanticipated challenges you can now plan for.
NOTE: This process is best completed with the leadership of your project. They will be able to understand the processes and resources of their organization to commit to responsibilities. It may be helpful to review the matrix with staff likely to complete the tasks and ask for their feedback before finalization.
Steps for completion:
Begin by brainstorming all the areas of decision-making or tasks that the evaluation project will entail. These may include topics such as:
Once a list has been created, begin to discuss each individually.
SECOND NOTE: This matrix is a living document! Review it annually/semi-annually for sense-making and needed revisions.
I have worked with a variety of Collective Impact collaborations over the years. The model is alluring, but neglects to explicity directly address the institutionalized injustices present in our society. As evaluators, it is vital that we support programs and policies that not only acknowledge injustice, but actively incorporate practices into our work to counteract the racism, sexism, and other bias that may implicitly exist in ourselves and others. Inspired by work in the non-profit sector that is looking to move beyond the Collective Impact model for more inclusive practices, I developed six principles for collaborating for social equity as evaluators.
Ready to take the next step? Check your implicit bias here.
What do you think? Do you incorporate practices that explicitly acknowledge social injustice and bias in your evaluation work?
The innovatory Stephanie Evergreen puts out a personal report each year. It is empowering to be at a place in my life where I have enough cool stuff to toot my horn about that it fills a whole page. This year has been an #eval adventure and I look forward to 2018 and all the learning and doing it brings.
HOW TO SHOW THE DIFFERENCES IN RESEARCH & EVALUATION
I have experienced the challenge of distinguishing myself as an evaluator from a researcher. I have begun to wonder how useful making distinctions between the two roles are. My conclusion: VERY USEFUL.
Recently, I have been working with several academic institution related-affiliated researchers. They are smart, they are thoughtful, they are awesome....and....they think in a completely different way than I do.
As we work together, the difference between research and evaluation becomes more tangible for me. Inspired by these interactions, I started to develop my own thinking of how to clearly communicate these differences to others.
So behold... inspired by John Lavelle's Hourglass... Phase One!
What do you think?
I value building relationships and strong working alliances. My participatory approach to evaluation ensures stakeholder voice is infused in decision-making and understanding every step of the way.
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