Posted by: heatherbritt | March 30, 2009

RealWorld Evaluation: Practical Tips for Working Under Budget, Time, Data & Political Constraints

I just got back from a one-day workshop where Jim Rugh covered the 7 steps of the RealWorld Evaluation approach. The approach aims to take evaluators and evaluation users through the process of planning and using an evaluation in a way that makes intelligent decisions in response to common constraints on budget, time, data quality and the political context of the evaluation.

The underlying theme here is that evaluation design is always a compromise reached by a variety of stakeholders.  Given that, the goal should be to maintain the rigor of results while providing evaluation solutions that suit the purpose(s) and the context.  Naturally, power dynamics between stakeholders plays a significant role.

Workshop participants engaged with the material and asked pertinent discussions, but the room really sprang to life during the afternoon role play.  The exercise involved a case study with 3 roles:  funder, project implementer and evaluation consultant.  Individuals in each of the small groups represented the various stakeholders and worked through steps to determine an evaluation design within budget constraints.  Each of the 6 tables came up with a slightly different research design, underlining the fact that negotiation skills are just as important in the evaluator toolbox as technical expertise.  For more information see www.realworldevaluation.org.

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