Rachel Engh is a Senior Evaluation Specialist, Cross-sector Lead at ACET. Her specialty in
designing participatory and equitable mixed-methods evaluation approaches helps clients
understand and communicate the impact of their work.
One project that Rachel has enjoyed working on since joining ACET in 2020 is the Great Plains Good Health and Wellness (GPGHW) program. ACET serves as the external evaluator for a five-year grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Good Health and Wellness in Indian County (GHWIC) program. “Our main role is supporting the GPGHW team with data collection as well as building evaluation capacity with the six tribal communities they work with, who are all doing health and wellness initiatives in their own communities,” she says.
A highlight of the GPGHW project is an annual symposium hosted each summer by the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board. Last summer Rachel partnered with the Great Plains Tribal Epidemiology Center to present an interactive workshop on qualitative data analysis at the event in Rapid City, SD. “The CDC has many requirements for collecting quantitative data, so I wanted to focus on qualitative data, which brings a greater potential for introducing story-telling—a centerpiece of Indigenous evaluation frameworks—to the overall evaluation,” she says. “And I know from personal experience that including an interactive component to the session can increase engagement and learning for everyone.”
Rachel searched for relevant, publicly accessible, real-life qualitative data to use, and landed on a collection of Facebook and other social media posts, for workshop participants to code and analyze. She packed crayons in her carry-on (raising the eyebrows of TSA agents) for a colorful coding experience and planned an interactive activity where the Epidemiology Center staff introduced the idea of qualitative data coding and then invited participants to code both independently and in pairs. A lively group discussion followed, and Rachel says her own takeaway from the workshop was the importance of increasing program staff’s understanding of why and how qualitative data can be helpful as they strive to communicate program results to their community, as well as funders and other stakeholders.
The 2023 GPGHW Symposium is slated for this month in Rapid City again. Rachel says ACET will host another interactive session, this time focusing on sustainability planning. “With Year 4 of the grant wrapping up, it’s a great time to discuss sustainability efforts,” she says.