Improve Post-Training Surveys to Learn About Impact

“Tell Us How Much You Love Us.”

That’s how a friend – who trains professionals all over the world – describes the average post-training evaluation survey. This is because surveys often just focus on three things:

Participation: Were the group exercises engaging? Were there adequate bio and texting breaks? Was it easy to work out problems with registration?

Satisfaction: Will the written materials help trainees use what they learned next week, next year?

Quality: Was the instructor knowledgeable? How much did trainees like the cookies and coffee that were served at the break?

Continue reading “Improve Post-Training Surveys to Learn About Impact”

New to Measurement and Learning for Social Change? Try the Five Questions

My mother left me my favorite kitchen tool: a small, serrated knife that peels, chops, and carves with ease. I reach for it first, before the dozen specialized knives in the block. 

I bet you also have a best-loved household tool. Maybe a hammer that has the perfect heft and fits your hand just right. Or a whisk that preps eggs for fluffy omelets every time.

In the measurement and learning field many of us have simple “go-to” tools that fit the bill for teams that are new to measurement or have limited capacity to take it on.

Continue reading “New to Measurement and Learning for Social Change? Try the Five Questions”

Advocacy on the Menu at Boston Globe

In the mood for a tasty lesson on doing #advocacy right? Check out the Boston Globe’s “Food” section’s inspired campaign, #ProjectTakeout.

#Project Takeout’s goal is to spur readers’ support for local independent restaurants during this second crushing pandemic winter. My favorite part is the feature “Three Places We Supported This Week.” Each weekly segment features three or four informal restaurant reviews by Globe staff.

Why is this great advocacy?

Continue reading “Advocacy on the Menu at Boston Globe”

Community Possibilities Podcast: Advocating for Social Change

I recently had a great chat with my friend and colleague Ann Price, who hosts the Community Possibilities podcast at Community Evaluation Solutions.

Ann’s expertise is working with community-based social service organizations both large and small on strategy design and evaluation for social change. We’ve connected over our passion for advocacy and policy change as a critical tool for helping communities to thrive and prosper.

Until you get to hear our podcast conversation for yourself, here’s the gist:

Continue reading “Community Possibilities Podcast: Advocating for Social Change”

Grant Seekers Meet Monster Anteaters: What Your Concept Paper Can Learn from a Movie Trailer

Monster green anteater movie trailers can improve your concept paper.

Not immediately finding this obvious? Nuclear powers now square off over Twitter, and jumbotrons post marriage offers. In times like these, it seems logical to borrow magic from a medium that attracts millions of eyeballs.

Grab that $8.00 bucket of popcorn and read on.

Continue reading “Grant Seekers Meet Monster Anteaters: What Your Concept Paper Can Learn from a Movie Trailer”

Bars Are for Pitchers, Not Pitching

In a world where work can’t start until a cat is ejected from someone’s keyboard, private in-person business meetings are as rare as carbon paper. But a chat behind (real) closed doors is something that should not be lost entirely to the mists of time.

In pre-pandemic 2019 I was an accidental witness to a job interview; an encounter that its very public setting – the lobby bar of a conference-center hotel – did little to improve.

In this piece for the American Evaluation Association’s daily blog, I distilled two lessons from the scene for independent evaluators and their clients. First, the consultant makes the best “pitch” in a get-to-know you meeting by providing the client with ideas that have value, not reciting her CV. And second, the philosophers need your bar stool, so, if you’re the client, find a better place to converse.

Prevail in Local Level Policy Change by Maintaining the Narrative Upper Hand

Even in the best of times, proposals to change local services – such as roads and schools – are often controversial. And this, of course, is far from the best of times. Opponents of specific public works projects find ready allies in residents who are unnerved by changes to the city or neighborhood status quo more broadly. This is especially true when an innovation (such as adding bike lanes and crosswalks) is identified by opponents as a threatening shift of entitlement from longstanding residents (such as people who drive cars) in favor of “outsiders” (bikers and pedestrians).

Local government is all about finding middle ground among residents with competing interests. But how is that process skewed in an era where social media aids in turbo-charging angry sentiments that previously were shared at the coffee shop or over the back fence?

Continue reading “Prevail in Local Level Policy Change by Maintaining the Narrative Upper Hand”

Politicians and Cow Manure: Voters Harmed by Corporate Polluters Urge Candidates to Take a Stand

From before the United States even existed, political actors sought to get the narrative upper hand. No less a figure than Paul Revere forged public opinion with this propaganda image about the Boston Massacre. The engraving (a print from which is in the collection of the Concord Museum) helped inflame New Englanders’ sentiments against London’s oppressive policies and helped push the colonies toward separation from England.

Forward to this century, opponents of sensible environmental regulation promote the narrative that it’s is anti-worker. In rural areas, they label candidates who promote management of natural resources as “anti-farmer,” all the while pushing the cost of industrial-scale pollution onto local communities that can ill afford it.

Continue reading “Politicians and Cow Manure: Voters Harmed by Corporate Polluters Urge Candidates to Take a Stand”

Learning and Adapting on the Statewide Election Trail

Political campaigns were among the many activities of normal life upended by the sudden emergence of COVID-19 in the winter of 2020. State and local campaigns, which often turn on successful door-to-door voter contact, were particularly affected.

In a Talking Points Memo piece co-authored with David Shorr, an evaluation colleague and local elected official, I analyzed how the Wisconsin Democratic Party succeeded in getting out the vote with only weeks to go before critically important April 2020 elections.

Continue reading “Learning and Adapting on the Statewide Election Trail”

Grantee-led Evaluation for Better Learning

In this post for Center for Effective Philanthropy, my colleague David Shorr and I argue that advocacy organizations and their funders learn best when the advocates themselves are supported to measure progress on their highest-priority issues and concerns.

Focusing on what grantees want to learn helps ensure that measurement is consistently incorporated into advocacy grantees’ busy schedules, and that the information that’s obtained is actually used by grantees to adjust to their environments and course-correct when necessary.

Continue reading “Grantee-led Evaluation for Better Learning”