Evaluation – measuring impact – is never supposed to be the focus of our community-based transformation work. In the nonprofit/CBO sector, no one typically argues for this stance, but our behavior certainly shows the occasional mismatched relationship between impact and evaluation.
That is, evaluation activities are in support of impact work; the work focused on supporting the transformation of lives by addressing systemic oppressions.
The relationship between impact and evaluation should be very much like the connection between the wellness of a body and the food that it consumes: How sustainable impact is can be reflected in the quality of data that it consumed… the quality of data that informs impact decision-making.
When we get this relationship right, we see the following in our organizations:
1 | Data collection is practical, straightforward, and excites the team.
2 | The use of data is practical, relevant to immediate and long-term needs, and is approached with great seriousness.
3 | The data collectors and managers are appreciated and respected for their behind the scenes roles.
4 | Impact decision-making is not tied one-to-one with data points, but rather reflects the totality of the message housed within the data.
Without looking at these four hints within your organization, you may be treating your impact decision-making like a hungry body:
a | No data for decision-making = no food for the body
b | Poor data practices = struggling, unsustainable health of impact work
c | Over emphasis on evaluation in order to accidentally look sophisticated = overeating that slows down impact actions
Broadly, decide how well your organization maintains a healthy relationship between impact and evaluation; like a body and the food it consumes, do the impact decision-making and data practices align to advance impact?
Specifically, reflect on the four hints (regarding getting the Impact & Evaluation Relationship right) in order to identify which of the four hints that you and your team can start adjusting this month.
Resources for Tip 2
To support your efforts to implement Tip 2, we provide you with short blogs and tools from previous 2 Tips:
1 | Welcome Outlier Data (July 2018)
2 | #Love The Community Through Data (June 2018)
3 | Why You Need Key Indicators of Effectiveness (March 2019)
4 | Why There’s Fear of Program Evaluation (August 2018)
5 | 5 Types of Research in the Nonprofit Sector & Their Importance (May 2018)
6 | Empower your org by distributing program assessment tasks (July 2016)
7 | Involving program graduates in program assessment (June 2016)