What is an evaluation report and what does it look like?

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PROJECT: The Kresge Foundation - TEACHING CASE

This project is for both internal learning within Kresge and an external teaching case for the field. Key partners including the national program office (DAISA ), the evaluation consultant (LFA) and the FreshLo Program Staff (Kresge Arts and Culture and Health.)

You can read Anna’s previous Emerging Learning here. To see all Emerging Learnings related to this project, head to the project page.


By: Anna Cruz & Chera Reid

With which EEI community do you identify?

Philanthropy

What is the status of this project?

The EEI team has been in the process of writing the FreshLo Evaluation teaching case. We’ve also been in the planning process for how to roll out the teaching case and thinking through who would benefit from it.

While not specifically related to this project, over the last few months we’ve also engaged with Learning for Action, our FreshLo evaluation partner, to think about how we might infuse EE principles to various parts of the ongoing FreshLo evaluation.

Now that you are deeper into your work, where are you gaining traction in advancing EE principles?

Our Strategic Learning, Research, and Evaluation team continues to make the case internally for supporting EE and embedding EE principles into the way we work. Our focus is not so much on getting buy-in – I think the organization is committed to the Equitable Evaluation principles -- our focus is to think about how we can operationalize EE principles in our Learning and Evaluation work. The questions continue to be: What would- and what does- it take to ensure that evaluation and evaluative work be in service of equity? What looks different when EE principles are core to how we use evaluation? And, who does that look different for?

We continue to pose these questions internally and to our consultants, especially in designing evaluations.

Chera: We are talking about what we need to unlearn. We recognize that our commitment to EE principles comes with acknowledgment that we are part of eval norms and institutions. As we see the potential of EE, what do we need to push ourselves on to unlearn? Example of how we’re beginning this work of unlearning is AEA 2018 presidential strand session on the subject. Anna and Maria co-presented with a professor who focus on somatics/the body and a longtime community organizer. Part of the point was that we need to recognize more ways of knowing--the body has ways of knowing and holding history and present; organizers have ways of knowing their communities and causes. What is ability to listen? To learn alongside? And what do we need to unlearn in order to sharpen it?

Why do you think that is?

Kresge has a deep commitment to equity and we have over the years interrogated our efforts to support equitable outcomes for low-income communities. We have also turned the interrogation inward as we work to further operationalize equity in our day to day practices as well as reflect on our ongoing internal equity journey. We have by no means “arrived,” but this ongoing interrogation of what it means to hold a racial equity lens to all areas of our work has also provided fertile ground for EE principles to gain traction. So, I’d like to believe that we’ve moved from making the case and this being a new concept for staff to having more meaningful conversations about how to operationalize these principles, both with our staff as well as with our evaluation consultant partners.

Chera: Our organizational racial equity journey is both about how we show up externally and who we are to and with one another internally. We’re trying to do not only good, but well by people who have been historically marginalized. Within the organization, we have adopted servant leadership as a guiding frame for the organization we want to be. We’ve had two half-day all staff trainings on servant leadership since this teaching case effort began. Servant leadership is a guidepost for who and how we want to be. Gives permission, to Anna’s point, to interrogate our practices.

What’s next? What do you need to consider to keep things moving?

One of the very concrete ways we’re moving along is re-thinking what an evaluation report is or looks like. While approaches like Developmental Evaluation have given rise to more diverse deliverables (e.g., memos), we continue to see the same type of evaluation report for summative evaluations. I think there’s a desire to show the rigor IN the report by putting everything from timelines, to methods, to survey questions, to theories of change and logic models...you name it...and only a few people truly engage with the report.

  • For our FreshLo evaluation, we’re instead asking, what storylines have emerged from the evaluation?

  • How would sharing these storylines in shorter, pithier, and more engaging deliverables help grantees?

  • Can we have several deliverables that focus on key messages instead of cramming everything into one?

  • And, who ultimately benefits from these reports? Is it the funder? The consultant? The grantees?

We’re interrogating our assumptions about what an evaluation report should be alongside our partners Learning for Action. Stay tuned to see what we come up with!


ABOUT THE AUTHORS

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Anna Cruz is the Strategic Learning and Evaluation Officer at The Kresge Foundation

Anna supports the foundation’s emerging Learning and Evaluation practice and works with internal program and practice teams to develop evaluative approaches for their work. She joined the foundation in 2018.


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Chera Reid is the Director of Strategic Learning, Research and Evaluation

Chera leads organization-wide work to grow the foundation’s learning endowment—drawing from the full suite of philanthropic tools, including evaluation and thought leadership—to join conversations that advance the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. She joined the foundation in 2013.