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Perform Eval

How to Do an Internal or External Evaluation

As an evaluator, you will likely experience two different scenarios. One, when you are hired to perform an evaluation of a project or program you are not involved with; you may know a few of the people, or perhaps you met them when negotiating your hiring; you are an external evaluator. The other one when you, as part of a program or organization, are appointed (or maybe you requested it?) to evaluate a program you have been working in; your coworkers probably know how much you have been involved there. You are an internal evaluator . How could you put yourself in the best conditions to deal with these very different situations? Could you successfully use the same techniques in both? What are some considerations that could help you a great deal to conduct a smooth, yet effective evaluation?

Know the Facts and Differences

Each of these scenarios (being an internal or external evaluator) provides you with good opportunities to perform your job. The more you understand them, the better they will serve you to plan your work and help you stay in line with it. Failing to pay attention to them could create problems between the evaluator and staff, which could eventually affect the quality of the evaluation and future relationships.

Advantages of Being an Internal Evaluator

  • You are part of the organization, you know the people, their dynamic and weaknesses.
  • You can bring this knowledge to design and apply the evaluation methods that best fit the program culture.
  • People know you and know your work ethic. You know what you can expect.
  • Things will make sense for you easily (for example, in documents review), since in some way or another you are and have been part of the program and the group.

Things to keep in mind

Focus on facts, not in people. You can ask: "What are the consequences of not doing these steps?" instead of: "Why hasn't your group done these steps yet?" Or another example: "It is important to provide feedback because…" rather than "You have lost valuable data because you don't have a method for follow up..."

Question yourself and question others about what is going on. Chances are, you are so familiar with things going on that it is not hard to miss opportunities for improvement. By keeping an alert attitude you can find explanations and new paths for doing things.

Bring the groups together. An evaluation is an opportunity to interact with people that perhaps are not so related to your functions in a regular basis. Listen to them, know their point of view. Remember that you already know a lot, but they will offer another view of the picture.

Be sincere, fair, and show humility. People will feel good enough in providing information for the evaluation if they see that you are sincere. Ask them for advice. Tell them if you feel that you may run into some incompatibilities. Ask them "What will you do if …?

Have fun! You have to be responsible and transmit responsibility, true. But you don't have to change your image. If the group know you as a friendly and open person, be like that. If they know as a more reserved person, that's fine, too. But remember, a short ice-breaker at meetings, or hanging around with people at the end of the day will build rapport. The more you can feel at ease, the better will serve it to the goals of the evaluation: provide fair and useful information about the program, how it attains its goals and how it could be improved.

Advantages of Being an External Evaluator

  • Being an external evaluator could bring many different thoughts for the program participants, going from the friendly atmosphere to the skeptical and defensive ones. These are some positive facts of being an external evaluator:
  • Since you have not been involved in the program, you are free of bias; you can observe everything with a fresh eye. You can question things and make the program staff think about issues in new ways. You can bring a new perspective.
  • You can talk to everyone, ask to be introduced to people. Every individual is a source of information for you. It is important to talk to the heads of groups, but do not forget the direct workers, volunteers, and all intermediate levels.
  • People may be more receptive to you. They will be open to accepting participation in meetings and groups, perhaps faster than if they know you, because they see evaluation as "your function." You can use the outside status to your advantage and design your work freely.

Things to Keep in Mind:

Try to identify and know the different types and personalities of the group you are working with. Who are the formal authorities? Who are the real leaders? Who can you see as your information providers? Who knows more about what? Create your "information network" in the organization.

After using some time to get involved in the program, you can increase people's trust and receptiveness by tailoring your style and presentations to their culture. They will appreciate your efforts and will feel more open to participate with you in the evaluation.

Display humility. Explain why you are doing the things you are doing. If you are doing something because you need to see and get something say so. Remember that they know their program and their job, and you are learning from them and by watching them.

by Gustavo Garcia-Barragan