What to do in the first meeting of an evaluation?

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Author: Thania de la Garza
Country: Mexico

By involving project or program managers in evaluation exercises the likelihood of using the study and its results is increased. It is therefore important to take their perception into account when planning how to carry out its development.

The process begins with a meeting with the project managers to present the objectives and design of the evaluation. However, most of the time, project managers do not have the same level of information about the evaluation process (they do not know aspects such as why the evaluation is carried out and for what purpose, how long it will last, what it implies in terms of work, how it will be carried out and what it will be used for). Therefore, it is advisable to plan the initial meeting very carefully in order to provide certainty about the process and thus, reduce negative attitudes towards the evaluation process, which can translate into little support for its implementation.

First of all, we must recognize that no one likes to be evaluated (even if they say they do). This acknowledgment allows us to put ourselves in the shoes of those responsible for the programs, identify their anxieties and, therefore, define actions that take these into account and, if possible, reduce them.

Next, it is necessary to consider that the priority of those responsible for the projects is to implement them. Recognizing that an evaluation adds to a workload makes it possible, on one hand, to define actions and schedules so that data collection affects project implementation as little as possible and, on the other hand, to define focal points between the teams to facilitate their communication.

Thirdly, clarifying the scope of the evaluation in terms of objectives, main users, timeframe, and the type of recommendations it will generate, will provide a common ground for the project managers and the evaluation team, allowing a unified idea on expectations about the evaluation.

Finally, it should be remembered that there is a widespread perception that evaluation is a specialized technical exercise. Establishing a common language is fundamental to create empathy. The presentations and materials used must use a common or “public” language.

In summary, the purpose of the first evaluation meeting is to define the “rules of the game” for the evaluation process. This will facilitate it is being done in a participatory and rigorous way, as well as having an impact on the improvement of projects and programs. So take the time to plan it well to ensure a good start to the evaluation exercise.

Here are four tips for planning a first evaluation meeting:

  1. Remember that the more those responsible for the projects to be evaluated participate, the greater the likelihood that the results will be used.
  2. Recognize the perception and priorities of those responsible for the projects.
  3. Define actions that favor openness to the evaluation exercise and that improve certainty in the exercise.
  4. Use simple language in your presentation.

Thania de la Garza (@th_garza). She collaborates with CLEAR LAC in the generation of strategies for the use of evidence and capacity building in evaluation. She directed the Evaluation Unit of CONEVAL for eleven years, coordinating more than 2800 evaluations of public programs and policies.