Why a culture of evaluation is essential to your organization’s progress.

To many evaluation is a nuisance. It is time consuming and a waste of time. When staff gather data for the purpose of evaluation, they often see it as an additional task to carry out with no clear benefit or correlation to their day to day role. When staff themselves are evaluated, they feel anxious and just want to get it over with.


The irony is when done well, evaluation can increase staff engagement. Good metrics can crystalize how the team’s day to day responsibilities directly benefits the clients and supports the mission of the organization. When conducted effectively, evaluation is about learning not punishment. Good evaluation is about celebrating success and building on the performance of staff and organization to improve. Under these circumstances staff feel appreciated and supported.

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So how can organizations shift the culture of their organization to one that embraces evaluation and build on its payoff to further develop?

Here are our three main suggestions:

1. Invest in creating good evaluation practices.

There are five key characteristics to good evaluation.

  • Good evaluation is collaborative. Relevant stakeholders are engaged in the design of data collection tools. Furthermore, purpose of evaluation is collaboratively set and the results, good and bad, are owned collaboratively. When everyone has a stake in the game, the engagement and buy in increases.  
  • Good evaluation measures what should be measured not just what can be easily measured. This is done though identification of a logic model, founded on a sound theory of change. Good evaluation also has SMART indicators (specific, measurable, attributable, realistic, targeted).
  • Good evaluation is simple. Although good evaluation tools are designed specifically and scientifically to measure what should be measured, they are not complicated. The design and data collection tools should be simple and to the point.
  • Good evaluation is founded on a belief in data. In other words, evaluation is conducted to learn. Those performing evaluations believe what the evidences tell them not the story they tell themselves. Additionally, decision makers must be committed to learning from and basing their decisions on the collected data. If a program has political will and narrative attached to it, decision makers may not be willing to consider the information. In such cases, conducting evaluation is just a waste of precious resources.
  • And lastly, good evaluation collects good data. In other words, data that is credible, actionable, responsible, and transportable. (CART principle)
2. Ensure you measure performance and capacity before attempting to measure Impact.
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Performance measurements should be informed by organizational values, mission, and vision. This is essential to guaranteeing focused effort and high quality organizational performance. Organizations need to verify successful program implementation and high service quality before attempting to measure impact. Otherwise, the impact measurement results will not be reliable.

Capacity measurement is another fundamental area organizations must assess. Part of this is due to organization’s need to measure its progress to ensure it can meet its priorities. But also, organizations have legal and fiduciary obligations that must be met by conducting various capacity assessments.

Once an organization has established regular performance and capacity measurements and has a commitment to good evaluation and good data, it is time to measure impact. For impact measurement to be valid, a sound theory of change and smart indicators must be established.

And finally:

3. Be committed to managing and leading change effectively.

The knowledge gained from good evaluation often results in improvements and as a result change in practices, services and sometimes the direction of the organization. But change can be stressful. Staff who have been engaged through the process of evaluation, must continue to be engaged in the change management strategy. Staff are passionate and invested and resist if:

a) they do not fully understand the purpose of the changes and

b) they feel they are constantly in a state of transition.

Consequently, it is important to celebrate success, communicate relevant information frequently, and continue to engage the staff.

When organizations create a culture of learning where evaluation is valued and embraced, they can build on their new gained insights to further develop and reach their potential.

If you want to chat about how PossibilitiesUnlimited can assist you in your journey of creating a culture of evaluation and learning, get in touch.


The Goldilocks Challenge: Right Fit Evidence for the Social Sector

Getting to What Matters: How to Design and Develop Evaluations

Impact Evaluation in Practice, 2nd Edition