Experience demonstrates that process matters, and involvement of clients early on in any evaluation enhances the usefulness of the results. I start by meeting with potential clients about their evaluation interests and needs. We discuss possible options, developing a shared understanding of potential solutions that align with their organization’s needs, evaluation capacity, culture, and budget.
In producing solutions, I typically work in partnership with an organization’s staff or with other evaluators. When working with other evaluators, I draw on a network of issue and evaluation experts. I am a member of the Advocacy Hub, a consortium of evaluation consultants based in Europe and Canada, the members of which are experienced campaigners and evaluators. We configure a team appropriate to the client’s needs.
When working on evaluation of projects in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, I prioritize working with evaluators based in the country or region. These colleagues are more fully grounded in the cultural, social and political context of a project, and are critical partners in data collection and analysis.
When producing evaluations, there should be a lot of learning and no surprises in the final report. Building opportunities in the evaluation process to discuss emerging findings with managers and stakeholders provides an opportunity work through difficult issues, refine interpretation of data, and flag questions that merit further investigation. While maintaining critical distance, external evaluators benefit from the depth of program experience offered by program/campaign managers and stakeholders. Even when timelines are too constricted to allow for extensive exchange, reactions to recommendations ensure they are informed by past experience and concrete, feasible steps for implementation. In the end, I believe an evaluation effort—whether designing an internal system or assessing a project—is successful if it provides reliable, useful information and illuminates future strategic directions.