Why is a Program Evaluation Impact Team so Important?

Impact Image- blogHow does an organization know it’s meeting its goals and objectives?  An outside team can be hired to put tools and systems in place, which is a good start, but investing money in outside consulting only can leave organizations floundering in a constantly evolving reality.  What if instead of investing solely in an outside group, an organization invests simultaneously in its own people?  It is exceedingly important to invest in the right team of people to help an organization to push forward, to evaluate and sustain systems, while keeping a “pulse” on the organization.  That’s what an impact team does.     

In a past blog, we talk about the 4 steps of a program evaluation. The impact team would work closely with the outside evaluator to complete the four steps and keep the evaluation cycle going beyond the consultation engagement! They are essentially your internal “CQI” or continuous quality improvement team.

An impact team is a cross-cutting team of staff that come together on a regular basis (e.g., quarterly) to ask critical questions, review data, and make meaning of the information; basically, to integrate program evaluation into the organization.  They would discuss how the data is being collected to ensure the processes and systems in place are being followed. They would also review the big goals identified in the logic model and discuss if the targets have been met and why/ why not.  Lastly, and most importantly, they would identify data-informed recommendations to improve the outcomes.

Transform Consulting Group worked closely with Center for Leadership and Development to implement a system for in-house evaluation and train their impact team to ensure integration of evaluation within the organization and cross-department alignment. Policies and procedures were put into place to guide system processes and outline impact team member roles and responsibilities. The team was trained on how to collect data using the agreed-upon tools.  A data management plan and schedule were created to align with the organization’s programming schedule and keep the impact team on track with data collection and analysis throughput the year.  This ensured new evaluation results would always be ready in accordance with important fundraising events and annual strategic planning sessions.

Who should be on an impact team?  The executive decision-makers?  All management?  Maybe just the staff who worked on the programs being evaluated?  Only if you want a myopic view of your organization’s reach.  The impact team should consist of staff at all levels to have different perspectives.  Information will be interpreted differently by each person on the team based on their unique capabilities, experiences and strengths.

What is interesting?  What stands out?  Some results may be more obvious to different members of the team.  This is what makes a great impact team.  Take time to think about the best people at each level of the organization and don’t be afraid to adjust those involved as things change.  An impact team will be engaged in the most crucial elements of the organization.  Make sure to include members capable of critical thinking and connecting the dots—systems level thinkers, not just task-masters.  Those who can perform high-level analysis, problem solving, and decision making are essential, but don’t exclude those doing work on the ground floor.  Their understanding of what it takes to execute the organization’s vision on a daily basis is invaluable.  Build a team from all levels that is excited, engaged, and willing to be honest about what works and what doesn’t.

This is the start of where the big decisions are made.  The informational “tools” to make big decisions start with the evaluation data (the hard evidence) and the folks who can interpret what the data is saying.  An organization’s impact team would present evaluation results and subsequent recommendations to the board and leadership team regularly.  Organizations are equipped with make data-informed recommendations for decision making, such as modifying programming elements, letting go of a program, refining the target population, requiring more professional development for program staff, adjusting program dosage for participants, and other organizational or programmatic changes.

Transform Consulting Group can help you create and sustain a winning program evaluation impact team for your organization.  Please contact us today to learn more!

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