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Collaborating to Achieve Evaluation Goals

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

Our evaluation approach is collaborative, meaning it is designed to be cyclical between the stakeholders such as the program implementation team and the evaluation team. In the collaborative model, the expertise of the project team is paramount as a guiding structure for the evaluation design. In this way, the structure and implementation of the evaluation plan will be its most useful. This is a difference from other evaluation approaches, where the evaluators design and implement an evaluation plan and process without the same level of conversation with the other groups. Collaborative evaluation requires and emphasizes authenticity and is our method of choice at ACED because it improves the quality of data and often improves the ability of the project team to use the data to improve future outcomes. There are various theories and a wide body of literature on collaborative evaluation, and we could talk about it all day! The important components are the communication style and use of data.

As the evaluation project continues, a collaborative model requires that communication remains open and honest between the evaluators and the project team. This is a key component of the collaborative evaluation process, as in some cases a fully external evaluation might miss access to important information when the stages of the evaluation are produced without regular open communication (i.e., at a once annual meeting). At each step of the evaluation, we design check-ins for communication between the teams to assess the progress toward the desired outcomes. The roles and responsibilities of data collection, analysis, and reflection are established early in the process so that integrity remains valued as data emerges indicating positive or negative results. This means that the collaborative approach is interwoven with formative evaluation structures, but it is important to note that the collaborative approach can also be used in fully summative evaluation projects, especially when on a tight timeline or with limited resources. It is all about working together to achieve the evaluation outcomes, rather than checking at the end of a project to see if the outcomes were met.

Within the collaborative evaluation model, forward steps will be suggested by the evaluation team based on the complete picture of the data and implementation processes until the desired outcome is achieved. Because of the high level of involvement from both the project team and the evaluation team, the collaborative approach does take more real-time input from already taxed project stakeholders. However, the balance of higher-quality and more useful data that emerges when collaboration is baked in from the beginning of the evaluation process makes reporting and improving projects more efficient over time, and makes the investment more than worth the while. We mitigate strategies which may take too much time in the collaborative approach by identifying timelines and time expectations at the beginning of the planning process, as well as established well-defined roles and expectations. Through transparency, this strategy results in the best outcomes for the evaluation process.

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