Evaluation5's Blog

March 13, 2010

Total make-over

By Bob van der Winden: see also www.evaluators5-0.net

It’s not easy to evaluate an organisation that is in the middle of a ‘total make over’.

Still, thanks to the intense cooperation of many involved stakeholders, this became a very worthwhile operation, in the first place thanks to the transparent and co-creative atmosphere the evaluation was conducted in.

The South African Women’s fund in case was created in 1998 to ‘support local women, finding local solutions for local problems’ by providing grants to grassroots women, individuals and groups to capacitate them to come together and create their own economic and social justice and especially to reduce the gender based violence which is entrenched in these communities.

In the beginning of 2009, after the dismissal of then director, the board realised they were not on the ‘right track’ and decided to bring in a new director asking her to reform the organisation so that it would be ‘state-of-the-art’ again.

EVALUATION

The evaluation took place between October 2009 and February 2010 and its co-creative form fitted the organisation well: after some joint training with the grants’ staff they conducted interviews (in the Most Significant Change style), later scrutinised by myself as well, and these interviews were discussed with the whole staff and the board. The form of the rest of the evaluation was mainly topic-interviews and stakeholder meetings according to the ‘4th generation evaluation methodology’. I became rather a facilitator in the process, but nevertheless the final responsibility (e.g. for the conclusions and recommendations) is always mine. The evaluation was done by me and was immediately followed by a strategic planning, facilitated by Rosien Herweijer.

The main research question was: “How and to which extent has the fund reached its objectives in the past concerning the 4 areas of intervention: basic grants, seed funding to CBOs, women in leadership, discretionary grants, awards?”

The evaluation used 5 different ways (triangulation): a desk study, topic-interviews of stakeholders, gathering stories from grantees, participative observation and a total of 4 workshops with different stakeholders. This all took 4 working weeks (apart from the work done by the staff itself) and flowed into the strategic planning.

CLAIMS, CONCERNS & ISSUES

The so called Claims, Concerns and Issues (CC&I) were discussed in the final stakeholders’ meeting. The Claims, Concerns and Issues are the ‘informing principles’ during this whole evaluation. In them the evaluator initially constructs the good things of the organisation (the claims), but something is only a claim if there is consensus among the stakeholders (in the meetings representatives of staff, board and grantees, as well as sister organisations were present). Concerns are the things everybody agrees upon that need to be solved, ISSUES are all the other findings from the evaluation about which there is no consensus. CC&I were validated in meetings with the board, staff and other stakeholders of the organisation and later again in the strategic planning that followed the evaluation. Conclusions and recommendations iin the final report are then the evaluator’s interpretation of those CC&I.

STRATEGIC PLANNING

The organisation is at the moment of writing of this report halfway a strategic planning process, based on the findings and recommendations of this evaluation. The practical model used is a business plan, sorting out all customer segments and the value propositions made to them, rather than a theoretical model, or a too rigid model (like the log frame) that puts operations in a central place, rather than stakeholders’ groups. The basic business model has been built; the challenge is now converting it into a strategic plan (on paper). Future annual plans will fit into this strategic plan.

This way it became possible to adapt different assets from our toolbox to the needs of the organisation, and sofar you can say that right now, it was an experience that will later also allow the staff to build on it, not only in the form of the strategic planning, but also for future monitoring, etc.

Interview Sue Howell, executive director of the organisation.

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