Developing measurable goals and objectives for internal evaluations

Nov 11, 2019
3 MIN. READ

Brooke Shelley previews her AEA: Evaluation 2019 presentation about the importance of collaboration in creating effective program evaluations that help ensure project success.

Brooke Shelley happily spends most of her days poring over spreadsheets and sifting through mountains of data. After her interest in public policy and research led to a career in evaluation, Brooke now handles program evaluations for multiple education-focused projects at ICF. Her work also supports a clearinghouse for the Administration for Children and Families, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Of course, Brooke understands that large amounts of data can be intimidating for project staff. Her presentation at American Evaluation Association (AEA): Evaluation 2019 highlights the importance of bridging the information gap for non-evaluators so they can make meaningful use of data that’s generated and collected. Ahead of the conference, we asked her to share her thoughts:

Q: What are you going to cover in your presentation?

A: I want to provide insight into a strategy that has worked really well for our team. We help project staff develop measurable goals and objectives. It’s not that our clients didn’t have these before, but each project has so much data. We’re being intentional about attaching specific metrics to each goal and objective. 

Over the last few years, we've totally stepped up our game in terms of providing findings and recommendations. This feedback is important because it turns into actionable recommendations for the client. It’s crucial that non data-driven people can benefit from this process. We’re getting everyone on the same page so that they understand what this data can mean for them.

Q: What’s the one takeaway you want the audience to remember?

A: The relationship between evaluator and project staff is super important. Fostering and facilitating collaboration is so valuable because it empowers both sides. For the evaluation team, it’s about figuring out what data is available to answer the research question. For the project staff, it’s about understanding how to make meaning out of the data in order to inform their work.

Q: What does success look like in your line of work?

A: I always say that a big accomplishment for an evaluator is when our recommendation or report does more than sit on someone's shelf. The goal is always to provide feedback in a way that gets non-evaluators excited about what's happening and what they can do next.

I’ve heard from clients that while they were scared of data in the past, now they understand how we're collecting it and why it’s important. Even better, they tell us that they now feel comfortable talking about the data to their clients by themselves. It’s satisfying to know that we've set them up for success.

Q: Any final reflections before you take the stage?

A: AEA is a conference of evaluators from across the U.S. but also from all around the world. It’s an important opportunity for us to show off our work to other evaluators. We want to provide a variety of ways that they can translate our strategies and approaches in their own work. I also want to demonstrate to current and future clients that ICF’s work is innovative and validated. We have the knowledge, experience, and capacity to tailor our work to their needs and priorities.
 
By Brooke Shelley