Four steps for funders to maximize their ability to aggregate data from multi-site initiatives.
Clear guidance is welcomed by grantees. Sometimes funders worry about being overly prescriptive or heavy-handed when defining evaluation requirements. In our experience, grantees prefer clear evaluation guidance. They want their data to contribute to a larger purpose. Also, when funders do require indicators to be measured in specific ways, this should never preclude the pursuit of other site-specific evaluation activities to address local stakeholders’ needs. Funders don’t have to choose between a set of common indicators versus local indicators—you can pursue both within the same initiative.
Planning ahead is the key. Beyond clearly articulating the aims and targets of an initiative, funders should plan in advance to measure common metrics of success. It’s possible to collect and combine data from different program sites and grantees into a single dataset that informs the full impact of the initiative. If you are in the early stages of planning a large-scale initiative with multiple sites, this is the time to consider the metrics you want to be measured across all locations. Take the time to define the indicators that align with the aims of the initiative, select common instruments and methods, and set up a data system that harmonizes data across sites. You will be on your way to having a combined dataset that allows you to demonstrate the wider impact of your initiative.