Harbinger Consultants

Creative Sustainability :: Place, People, Product, Potential, Partnership + Pollinating

CAPABILITY | Evaluation and Facilitation

The work we do as consultants is often multifaceted and process driven. For example, we never just produce a plan or strategy. Planning and strategy making involve diverse stages and processes that can include facilitation, engagement, communications and evaluation. While we have been contracted to run those processes as unique undertakings, we have also prepared and delivered them as part of a cohesive and cumulative planning or complex problem solving methodology.

Most recently, we have been working with community organisations who have been endeavouring to test their adaptive mettle in the face of policy and funding changes. In our work with an intercultural group, for example, some great richness and innovation has been revealed. However, the group is challenged to maintain its work within very limited resources. In working with the group we have applied the SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) model and are continuing to work using a complex problem solving methodology. Ultimately, we will co-produce a theory of change in a facilitated workshop context to guide the ongoing of the work of the organisation.

We have also worked on several program and project evaluations that are highly engaging and/or participatory for both non-profit organisations and government. In our Board and Committee roles, we have undertaken planning with performance and impact in mind. For non-profit boards, monitoring (e.g. dashboard reporting) and evaluation are essential elements of strategic planning and governance. Evaluation also needs to be factored into a initiative from the outset – it cannot be an afterthought. Importantly, there is a difference between evaluation and feedback. Evaluation can be understood as “the systematic investigation of the merit, worth, or significance of an object or effort. Evaluation practice has changed dramatically during the past three decades – new methods and approaches have been developed and it is now used for increasingly diverse projects and audiences” (See Community Toolbox). Evaluation provides some indication of the value of an initiative.

Evaluation plans can be developed in tandem with project plans to ensure alighment with the logic models of policies, programs and projects. However, there is a need to remain flexible about the tensions between program theory, which can tend to be static and linear, and real situations and experiences which can be more complex. Evaluation, properly undertaken, is powerful and produces evidence that can be used to understand and improve practices. Ideally evaluation processes are established to measure impact or outcome and there needs to a be meaningful link between evaluation criteria, performance measures and program/project goals. Evaluation can be built into planning processes and guide ongoing development in an evidence-informed way. For example, in applying an appreciative or theory of change approach in developing strategy, there is some call for reflecting on achievements and strengths. It’s important, however, to be clear about why the evaluation is needed and what it is supposed to achieve. This explicit awareness of need will inform the methodology or logic of the evaluation process to ensure the gathering of credible evidence.

If your organisation or group seeks to evaluate its programs and projects or is looking for facilitators to help focus strategy, purpose and direction, please contact us. We understand that many organisations are under pressure to adapt and transition and we will be responsive to your needs and constraints.

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