In February 2009, I attended a seminar held by Shatil, on Building Evaluation Capacity (ECB). The speaker was Jean King from the University of Minnesota. Jean, an excellent speaker and workshop leader, shared with seminar participants the rationale, skills needed and challenges to ECB.

Experience shows that many organizations are evaluating their programs on an ongoing basis, but are not doing so in a systematic manner. By building evaluation capacity, we can put those efforts into context and achieve maximum benefit from work we are already doing.

Of particular interest, was the Interactive Evaluation Quotient that Jean presented. This diagram highlights how when program leaders and staff take the lead in evaluation, evaluation findings lead to high involvement in decision making and implementation, while when evaluation is evaluator led, there is a lower level of involvement.

By building evaluation capacity within organizations we create the capacity to sustain change.

In my work as a fundraising consultant, I often find that organizations claim that they are too busy even to think about evaluation, yet, without the ability to demonstrate their impact and effectiveness they are seriously hampering their abilities to develop resources. If building evaluation capacity is part of how we build programs, evaluation does not have to be an added burden but rather part of the way we think and work. The evaluator does not have to be an outsider, but rather becomes part of the team, helping to define the ways in which the organization operates.

By building evaluation in as part of the process, questions by funders and others about what is success and how we are measuring impact become part of the organization lexicon. Even the fact that the organization thinks about these terms usually creates an impression; it also helps demonstrate how an individual program contributes to the overall mission of the organization.

I think the key to building evaluation capacity is in finding a qualified evaluator who we feel comfortable with and who can advise the organization on an ongoing basis. True evaluation is an ongoing process.