Archive: stakeholders

Blog: Tips for Building and Strengthening Stakeholder Relationships

Posted on November 23, 2020 by  in Blog ()

Project Manager, EvaluATE at The Evaluation Center

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Hello! I am Valerie Marshall, I work on a range of projects at The Evaluation Center, including EvaluATE, where I serve as the administrator and analyst for the annual ATE Survey.

A cornerstone of evaluation is working with stakeholders. Stakeholders are individuals or groups who are part of an evaluation or are otherwise interested in its findings. They may be internal or external to the program being evaluated.

Stakeholders’ interests and involvement in evaluation activities may vary. But they are a key ingredient to evaluation success. They can provide critical insight into project activities and evaluation questions, serve as the gatekeepers to other stakeholders or data, and help determine if evaluation findings and recommendations are implemented.

Given their importance, identifying ways to build and nurture relationships with stakeholders is pivotal.

So the question is: how can you build relationships with evaluation stakeholders?

Below is a list of tips based on my own research and evaluation experience. This list is by no means exhaustive. If you are an ATE PI or evaluator, please join EvaluATE’s Slack community to continue the conversation and share some of your own tips!

Tip 1: Be intentional and adaptative about how you communicate. Not all stakeholders will prefer the same mode of communication. And how stakeholders want to communicate can change over the course a project’s lifecycle. In my experience, using communication styles and tools that align with stakeholders’ needs and preferences often results in greater engagement. So, ask stakeholders how they would like to communicate at various points throughout your work together.

Tip 2: Build rapport. ATE evaluator and fellow blogger George Chitiyo previously noted that building rapport with stakeholders can make them feel valued and, in turn, help lead to quality data. Rapport is defined as a friendly relationship that makes communication easier (Merriam-Webster). Chatting during “down time” in a videoconference, sharing helpful resources, and mentioning a lighthearted story are great ways to begin fostering a friendly relationship.

Tip 3: Support and maintain transparency. Communicate with stakeholders about what is being done, when, and why. This not only reduces confusion but also facilitates trust. Trust is pivotal to building  productive, healthy relationships with stakeholders. Providing project staff with a timeline of research or evaluation activities, giving regular progress updates, and meeting with stakeholders one-on-one or in small groups to answer questions or address concerns are all helpful ways to generate transparency.

Tip 4: Identify roles and responsibilities. When stakeholders know what is expected of them and how they can and cannot contribute to different aspects of a research or evaluation project, they can engage in a more meaningful way. The clarity generated from the process of outlining the roles and responsibilities of both stakeholders and research and evaluation staff can help reduce misunderstandings. At the beginning of a project, and as new staff and stakeholders join the project, make sure to review roles and expectations with everyone.

Blog: How Can You Make Sure Your Evaluation Meets the Needs of Multiple Stakeholders?*

Posted on October 31, 2019 by  in Blog ()

Executive Director, The Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

We talk a lot about stakeholders in evaluation. These are the folks who are involved in, affected by, or simply interested in the evaluation of your project. But what these stakeholders want or need to know from the evaluation, the time they have available for the evaluation, and their level of interest are probably quite variable. The table below is a generic guide to the types of ATE evaluation stakeholders, what they might need, and how to meet those needs.

ATE Evaluation Stakeholders

Stakeholder groups What they might need Tips for meeting those needs
Project leaders (PI, co-PIs) Information that will help you improve the project as it unfolds

Results you can include in your annual reports to NSF to demonstrate accountability and impact

Communicate your needs clearly to your evaluator, including when you need the information in order to make use of it.
Advisory committees or National Visiting Committees Results from the evaluation that show whether the project is on track for meeting its goals, and if changes in direction or operations are warranted

Summary information about the project’s strengths and weaknesses

Many advisory committee members donate their time, so they probably aren’t interested in reading lengthy reports. Provide a brief memo and/or short presentation with key findings at meetings, and invite questions about the evaluation. Be forthcoming about strengths and weaknesses.
Participants who provide data for the evaluation Access to reports in which their information was used

Summaries of what actions were taken based on the information they needed to provide

The most important thing for this group is to demonstrate use of the information they provided. You can share reports, but a personal message from project leaders along the lines of “we heard you and here is what we’re doing in response” is most valuable.
NSF program officers Evidence that the project is on track to meet its goals

Evidence of impact (not just what was done, but what difference the work is making)

Evidence that the project is using evaluation results to make improvements

Focus on Intellectual Merit (the intrinsic quality of the work and potential to advance knowledge) and Broader Impacts (the tangible benefits for individuals and progress toward desired societal outcomes). If you’re not sure about what your program officer needs from your evaluation, ask for clarification.
College administrators (department chairs, deans, executives, etc.) Results that demonstrate impact on students, faculty, institutional culture, infrastructure, and reputation Make full reports available upon request, but most busy administrators probably don’t have the time to read technical reports or don’t need the fine-grained data points. Prepare memos or share presentations that focus on the information they’re most interested in.
Partners and collaborators Information that helps them assess the return on the investment of their time or other resources

In case you didn’t read between the lines, the underlying message here is to provide stakeholders with the information that is most relevant to their particular “stake” in your project. A good way not to meet their needs is to only send everyone a long, detailed technical report with every data point collected. It’s good to have a full report available for those who request it, but many simply won’t have the time or level of interest needed to consume that quantity of evaluative information about your project.

Most importantly, don’t take our word about what your stakeholders might need: Ask them!

Not sure what stakeholders to involve in your evaluation or how? Check out our worksheet Identifying Stakeholders and Their Roles in an Evaluation at bit.ly/id-stake.

 

*This blog is a reprint of an article from an EvaluATE newsletter published in October 2015.

Newsletter: How can you make sure your evaluation meets the needs of multiple stakeholders?

Posted on October 1, 2015 by  in Newsletter () ()

Executive Director, The Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University

We talk a lot about “stakeholders” in evaluation. These are the folks who are involved in, affected by, or simply interested in the evaluation of your project.  But what these stakeholders want or need to know from the evaluation, the time they have available for the evaluation, and their level of interest are probably quite variable.  Here is a generic guide to types of ATE evaluation stakeholders, what they might need, and how to meet those needs.

Stakeholder groups What they might need Tips for meeting those needs
Project leaders (PI, co-PIs)
  • Information that will help you make improvements to the project as it is unfolding
  • Results you can include in your annual reports to NSF to demonstrate accountability and impact
Communicate your needs clearly to your evaluator, including when you need the information in order to make use of it.
Advisory committees or National Visiting Committees
  • Results from the evaluation that show whether the project is on track for meeting its goals, if changes in direction or operations are warranted
  • Summary information about the projects’ strengths and weaknesses
Many advisory committee members donate their time, so they probably aren’t interested in reading lengthy reports.  Provide a brief memo and/or short presentation at meetings with key findings and invite questions about the evaluation. Be forthcoming about strengths and weaknesses.
Participants who provide data for the evaluation
  • Access to reports where their information was used
  • Summaries of what actions were taken based on the information they needed to provide
The most important thing for this group is to demonstrate use of the information they provided.  You can share reports, but a personal message from project leaders along the lines of “we heard you and here is what we’re doing in response” is most valuable.
NSF program officers
  • Evidence that the project is on track for meeting its goals
  • Evidence of impact (not just what was done, but what difference the work is making)
  • Evidence that the project is using evaluation results to make improvements
Focus on Intellectual Merit (the intrinsic quality of the work and potential to advance knowledge) and Broader Impacts (the tangible benefits for individuals and progress toward desired societal outcomes). If you’re not sure about what your program officer needs from your evaluation, ask him or her for clarification.
College administrators (department chairs, deans, executives, etc.)
  • Results that demonstrate impact on students, faculty, institutional culture, infrastructure, and reputation.
Make full reports available upon request, but most busy administrators probably don’t have the time to read technical reports or need the fine-grained data points. Prepare memos or share presentations that focus on the information they’re most interested in.
Partners and collaborators
  • Information that helps them assess the return on the investment of their time or other resources
See above – like with college administrators, focus on providing the information most pertinent to this group.

In case you didn’t read between the lines—the underlying message here is to provide stakeholders with the information that is most relevant to their particular “stake” in your project. A good way to not meet their needs is to only send everyone a long, detailed technical report with every data point collected. It’s good to have a full report available for those who request it, but many simply won’t have the time or level of interest needed to consume that quantity of evaluative information about your project. Most importantly, don’t take our word as to what they might need: Ask them!

Not sure what stakeholders to involve in your evaluation or how? Check out our worksheet on Identifying Stakeholders and Their Roles in an Evaluation at (bit.ly/id-stake).