Before the pandemic, we conducted evaluation, facilitation, and other projects with a mix of in-person and virtual meetings. Now that we’re 16 months into working exclusively in a virtual environment, here are some key ways we’ve learned to make evaluation effective:
Focus on useful, usable data. All aspects of evaluation are useful, but some aspects become more useful during a pandemic. “We focused on what is usable, useful, and what data to collect,” says Ashley Kitchen, ACET’s Evaluation Specialist and Quality Improvement Lead. “We don’t want to create an evaluation burden or burnout.” Evaluation efforts are about enhancing and improving a program, so it’s important to adapt during a pandemic.
Adapt to fit the situation. Before the pandemic, one project had a two, full-day in-person training. During the pandemic, the program adapted to create four half-day virtual trainings. “We created short, daily feedback forms to make sure we were getting feedback from people each day, especially if they weren’t able to attend each day of training,” Ashley says. “And we created a post-assessment form for those who attended all four days. This allowed us to ‘catch’ each participant and value each person’s feedback.”
Meet people where they’re at. Most clients are still working from home, and they’re dealing with issues of working remotely. “Take time to talk as people, not just as clients and evaluators,” Ashley says. “There have been a lot of difficulties over the course of the past year. It’s important to be sensitive to that.”
Document. For example, capture information on how the pandemic is affecting the program and the staff. Ashley says, “We documented the effect of the pandemic on program staff in both their personal lives and in a professional capacity.”