How to Be a Useful Evaluative Consultant from Afar

We often work with clients who have limited budgets but big goals. They are seeking to make significant, systemic difference through interventions which they believe will change the world for those whom they serve. However, they can’t afford to have professional evaluators alongside them every step of the way. So, as an evaluative consultant, it’s up to me to figure out how to set them up for success.

 

The Need

I am currently working with a client who has is delivering an intervention which involves repeated in-person activities with groups of people from across the country. They are together for a handful of days and then everyone disperses. There is a good deal of post-event information which can be collected about the intervention but what about collecting information about the event itself, in real time? This event is a critical part of their intervention, so they needed and wanted information about the multi-day experience they were delivering. Here is what I have learned about increasing a client’s evaluation capacity when you’re not able to be with them physically throughout an event which is a crucial part of their work. You can see my process below:

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The Outcomes

This process resulted in a folder of highly-detailed and highly-customized “how-to” guides for each data collection activity which was taking place during the client’s in-person event. I created these in Google Docs and used hyperlinks to photos and the event agenda so that facilitators would always be able to place the script and the set-up instructions within the context of the larger event.

 

Takeaways

The most useful aspect for building the client’s evaluation capacity was the reflection we did after each event about how each script could/should be tweaked and how to alter the timing of the activity, location of the activity, etc. to meet the participant need and increase participation rates. It was instructive for me as an evaluative consultant and informative for the client. We both wrapped up this process better understanding their unique need and how these activities were collecting information to shape the events. It was developmental in nature and extremely useful in practice!

Bio

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Molly Sullivan is a founding member of TerraLuna Collaborative. Molly received her Master of Public Policy Degree from Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary English Education from New York University and has maintained a passion for education ever since. Molly has also worked for the Human Capital Research Collaborative, Penguin Press, Transportation Alternatives, and the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU. In the course of her graduate program, she founded Young Education Professionals- Twin Cities, interned at the Minnesota House of Representatives, designed a pilot teacher evaluation system for a network of charter schools in her capacity as an Education Pioneers fellow in Washington, D.C., and worked on the Chicago Longitudinal Study. Most recently, Molly worked for Minneapolis Public Schools as an administrator focused on diversifying the teaching workforce through “Grow Your Own” programs. Molly Sullivan currently serves as President of the Board of Directors for TerraLuna Collaborative.

Emily Borka