High quality, worthwhile, actionable evaluation doesn’t just depend on the technical competence and effective consultation skills of the evaluator.
Decisions made and actions taken (or not taken) by the client can make or break the value of evaluation for an organization.
High-value evaluation is the product of a fruitful interaction between a well-informed client and a responsive, appropriately skilled evaluation team.
What have we – both clients and evaluators – learned from both stunningly high value evaluative work (“dream projects”) and bitter disappointments (a.k.a. “Nightmares on Eval Street”)?
And, how can evaluators help clients get maximum utilization and value for their evaluation dollar by becoming informed, demanding, savvy consumers of (and partners in) evaluation?
The same is true when it comes to working alongside the evaluation team to ensure the client organization’s needs are met, and that the insights and learnings from evaluation are both influential and used. [This point holds whether the evaluation is participatory or independent.]
There is a LOT to say on this topic, so I’m giving just a taster of ideas here. Over the next few weeks and months I’ll be picking up on each of these – and more – and fleshing them out a bit more and expanding on some earlier material.
6 hot tips for evaluation clients:
- Save time and energy with a two-phase process: “Expression of Interest” (EoIs) to shortlist qualified bidders followed by a full RFP to select the right team
- Select contractors based on capabilities, not an evaluation plan they have written ‘blind’ (i.e. without speaking with stakeholders)
- Use our list of great questions (under development!) that cut to the chase and reveal the evaluation team’s approach, capabilities, and fit with the project
- Ask for a ‘skeleton report’ before any data are collected so you can discuss what you need as an end product
- Consider not requesting a long final report at all – they are seldom read; often, presentations and short written updates at several time points are more useful and usable
- Have a contingency plan for ‘pulling the plug’
3 hot tips for evaluation contractors:
- Help the client figure out whether or not you are the right fit by getting really clear about your brand – “who you are” as an evaluation practitioner or organization. What distinguishes you from the rest of the pack? What are your core values? Your “signature skill sets”? Your unique value proposition?
- Put serious time and effort in at the front end to ensure you clearly understand the client’s needs, including any decision timelines (e.g. MQP’s point that summative decisions are often made 18 months ahead of time, but usually evaluation findings available then have only been designed with formative uses in mind)
- Develop an overarching set of big-picture evaluation questions to guide the work – and talk through with the client what a real answer would look like, to them
What would you add to this list? Fire away in the comments section below!
It’s time for a radical rethink of the RFP process and the usual approach to evaluation project management – watch this space!
- 9 golden rules for commissioning a waste-of-money evaluation
- Lifting the quality of evaluation #1: Savvy clients
- Extreme Genuine Evaluation Makeovers (XGEMs) for Commissioning
- Commissioning XGEMs – the sequel
- The Friday Funny: The Government Contracting Glossary
- Who’s responsible for un-genuine evaluation?