This is the third post of our new guest blog series Knack, highlighting purposeful and powerful, local voices exploring nonprofit ideas, feelings, and know-how.
Featured Guest Voice | Dr. Annette Shtivelband, Founder / Principal Consultant of Research Evaluation Consulting
Mistakes will Happen
Everyone makes mistakes and encounters challenges with evaluation at some point. My company Research Evaluation Consulting (REC) works primarily with social sector agencies to evaluate their programs and measure impact. As an experienced evaluator, I’ve seen all sorts of data from our clients. In the best circumstances, data measures what it was intended to measure, it is trustworthy, it is meaningful, and it tells a story of impact. However, sometimes data is flawed, missing, and messy. Even well-planned, well-intentioned, and well-organized projects can fail or produce less than optimal results. Mistakes can and will happen. I’ve worked with many clients who had devoted a lot of time, energy, and resources into collecting data only to discover that this data didn’t provide the answers they sought. In fact, in one of my first consulting projects, I had to give my client the bad news that they had collected three years of garbage data. Fortunately, we were able to make things better for the future. I only wish they had worked with someone like me earlier in the process.
Formal Training can be Flawed
Many people might think that higher education will prepare you to handle evaluation challenges. Yes and no. In my experience, formal training can be flawed. When I was in graduate school pursuing my doctorate, I learned a lot about data. When we got data to analyze in the classroom, most of the time the data was clean, complete, and without any flaws. We learned how to analyze and report findings in the best possible scenarios. Yet, in the real world, data is often less than ideal. Formal training is limited when it does not teach students how to address evaluation challenges. Outside the classroom, you need to know how to prevent mistakes before they happen, pivot if you’re tools are not producing reliable results, and know how to correct mistakes (if possible) after the fact. Formal training is helpful, but can be limited in the real world.
From Challenges to Solutions
I believe that preventing evaluation challenges before they happen is the best thing that nonprofits can do. It is for this reason that I am presenting at the Colorado Nonprofit Association Conference. My session (Im)possible Evaluation Challenges focuses on six common evaluation challenges and strategies to address such challenges before, during, and after they happen. I encourage attendees to bring their questions as we discuss this topic together as a group. I am excited to serve as a resource to the nonprofit community and I am passionate about helping organizations thrive through best evaluation practices. It is my goal that this interactive session will help nonprofits improve how they address evaluation challenges now and into the future.
Based on all the clients that REC has had the honor and privilege to work with, I know it is possible to address evaluation challenges and create actionable solutions. I invite you to join me and your colleagues at the upcoming conference!
About Dr. Annette Shtivelband
Dr. Annette Shtivelband is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Research Evaluation Consulting (REC). Annette has extensive experience working with social sector agencies and has served as an evaluator, researcher, and consultant in the nonprofit sector for over a decade. Dr. Shtivelband works with her clients to systematically, strategically, and thoroughly measure their impact. She excels in all things related to data and can communicate effectively with people from all walks of life. Using both quantitative (e.g., surveys, statistical analysis) and qualitative (e.g., focus groups, interviews) methods, Annette knows how to make evaluation meaningful, actionable, and helpful.
Research Evaluation Consulting (REC) is a Colorado-based, woman-owned consulting firm that delivers quality research and evaluation services to nonprofit organizations, the private sector, universities, government and educational agencies. REC provides clients with a variety of professional and customized services that facilitate, strengthen, and promote effective organizational practices. We represent an integrated team of nonprofit professionals that focus on helping our clients achieve optimum results through collaboration, innovation, and strategy. REC works with community partners to build their research and evaluation capacity. We are committed to cultivating strong client relationships based on integrity, commitment, and a shared project vision. We work with our clients to deliver results you can trust. To learn more check out our blog or like our Facebook page!