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Help! I Need An Evaluator But I Don’t Know What To Ask!

Help! I need an evaluator but I don’t know what to ask!

By Sarah Mason

My husband is a software developer. Recently, I had to hire a software developer (not him) to help out on one of our projects at CERE.

I found a company that seemed like they could do what I wanted.
I arranged our first meeting.
But I was nervous.

The nerves

“What do I say to them?” I asked my husband… “How do I tell them what I want and how do I figure out if they can deliver it?”

He very kindly helped me map out a way of describing what I wanted—and a set of questions to ask to check that they understood (and could deliver).

The evaluation connection

It then occurred to me that non-evaluators may have many of the same worries when first meeting with an evaluator.

So, with the hope that this post may assist non-evaluators in just the same way my husband helped me as a non-software developer, here are the 5 things I’d suggest having ready before you talk to an evaluator.

My advice

  1. What do you need evaluated? What is the program, policy or product and what is it meant to achieve? As much as you can, map out (in detail) what your program does and what it hopes to change in the world. Sketch out (no matter how messy, or basic) a map of what you do (e.g. activities, workshops, events) and the outcomes you hope to see in the world (e.g. improved literacy, persistence in college, enhanced mental health, etc).
  2. What do you want to learn? Do you want to learn about who’s using your program? Or how your design stacks up against best practice? Maybe you’re more interested in whether your team is implementing the program well—or whether the program even meets the needs of your community. In your own words, write down what you want to learn from the evaluation so you can share this with your prospective evaluator.
    How will you use your findings? What are you going to do with the findings and what decisions will you make with the data? Keep in mind that evaluations can (and ideally are) used for more than just giving reports to funders. You might want to use your evaluation for: (click image to enlarge)
  3. When do you need the information? Think about the decisions you need to make (see #3 above), and when you’ll need to make them. Then think through the processes that sit beneath the decision to figure out when you need to have data to help you with those decisions.
  4. Who else do you need to ‘bring along’ with you? Perhaps this is a funder, or another group of people within your organization. An evaluator will want to know who else need to be engaged in the evaluation process – and who needs to be persuaded by the evaluation findings.

Armed with these 5 pieces of information, you’ll be able to take charge of your meeting with the evaluator—and use their answers to these questions to help you figure out if they can deliver what you need.

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