At TNC, we often use our evaluations as an avenue to support equity seeking groups and advocate for their needs. We believe that evaluations being conducted in vulnerable and equity-seeking communities should strive to understand community-identified needs. Evaluators need to provide flexibility in terms of timelines for data collection, and should incorporate capacity building efforts to empower stakeholders where appropriate.
To share some of our recent learnings about evaluation as a tool for advocacy, five members of our team (Vashisht Asrani, Laine Bourassa, Amy Ellard-Gray, Kimberley Goh & Dylan Schentag) completed a poster presentation at the recent Emergent Voice in Evaluation 2021 conference. In preparation we met as a team to reflect and discuss our experiences conducting evaluations over the past year. The poster highlights ways in which evaluators can adapt their projects and support community organizations, especially during challenging times such as the current pandemic.
Through our work and the adaptations that we have made to support equity-seeking groups, we offer the following insights:
- Many clients needed to make changes to programming due to the ongoing pandemic (e.g., switching to virtual program delivery). We were able to adjust our evaluation approach accordingly, to capture accurate outcome and process-related data in these new contexts.
- As a result of our focus on capacity building efforts, our clients and stakeholders feel more confident carrying out data collection and other evaluation activities (e.g., conducting focus groups). They also have tools they can use to conduct basic evaluation that they can continue on their own in the absence of funding.
- Many service providers struggled during the pandemic managing their services while still trying to meet funder requirements. Our evaluation teams advocated for changes to the evaluation related deliverables to decrease the workload of the service providers. This made them feel supported. Service providers are less overwhelmed and are able to continue providing important services in the community, while still demonstrating impact of their programs to funders through alternative deliverables (e.g., shorter reports).