Over the past several weeks, I’ve (Deven) been reflecting on how organizations (specifically community-based non-profit organizations) engage in evaluation. The activity can often feel like an afterthought; one in which boxes are being checked and a report is being delivered but without a clear or substantive why or for whom (I.e., why do we want to evaluate and for whom are we doing it). As I’m asked to show up in the spaces, either to guide formal evaluation projects or to speak to topics like cultivating a culture oriented towards using data to inform decisions, exploring these feelings felt particularly important.
In my exploration, I realized that even as an evaluator working within a firm that prioritizes capacity building and participatory processes, I feel I’m limited in the room I’m given to help facilitate meaningful evaluation. Specifically, the nature in which projects come into existence — often a requirement associated with supporting a program or intuitive — isn’t conducive for the intentional integration of data and evaluation (though it often feels this is the expectation of grantees and programming teams). The evaluation activities are often prescriptive and surface-level — meaning learning opportunities that could be returned to the community aren’t always achieved.
My reflective prompts are inspired by last month’s podcast guest Dawn Valentine, who spoke to the idea that if we’re not collecting data for the communities being served, we’re taking resources away from them. So, with that in mind, how could we…
- reimagine the relationship between funders and grantees?
- reimagine our relationship with funders? and,
- support the process of reimagining these relationships?