Introducing: Aligned Measurement & Learning

What if measurement, learning and evaluation (MLE) were highly responsive to what the program and organization needed to know?  If it honored the strategic plan and evolved with learning needs, but was not onerous to staff? And it organized data and analysis in a way that was readily accessible to colleagues, leadership and stakeholders? We believe this is possible. We’re calling it “Aligned MLE.

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Six Takeaways on the State of Evaluation from #AEA2023

I’ve attended the American Evaluation Association (AEA) annual conference for the past nine years. During this time, the conference schedule has increasingly featured presentations on collaborative and participatory measurement and learning (MLE) for nonprofit social change programs.

Continuing that trend, evaluators at AEA 2023 presented on MLE projects where they are serving as facilitators and coaches of data gathering and analysis by and for people who implement social change programs (rather than undertaking all data gathering and analysis themselves, either as “external” evaluators or as a designated in-house evaluation team).

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Surveying Your Community? Your Findings Report Should Bolster Your Reputation as an Expert

Years ago I made a friend who hailed from rural New Hampshire. She claimed that her family exchanged balls of scrap string as holiday presents.

Not the cute kind you can now get on #Etsy

Actual lengths of string for emergency shoelaces or gate repairs – practical uses. Taken off a package she’d received, and saved from the waste bin.

I have never done this myself. But I embrace the concept of putting things to use more than once.

Recently I’ve been reviewing the work of #basebuilding groups that survey community members on their public policy preferences and social service needs.

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Speak to Us, Frederick Douglass

It’s raining in #ConcordMassachusetts on the morning of the #FrederickDouglass community reading. Not a friendly little rain. Water coming down in sheets.

The Robbins House staff have set up a small event tent for participants, across from the tent they’ll be under to lead the event. The re-enactor playing Douglass – an imposing young woman — looks unfazed. Her muslin gown and cap must be miserable in this heat. Maybe she’s thinking that Douglass in his endless miles of travel saw much worse.

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Make the Most of Organizational Collaborations

Are you still dating your high school boyfriend?

Kudos to you if you are. Or, if you married the guy, I’m envious!

But if you’re like me, you’re in touch with only a few high school friends. As we take on new roles in our personal lives – as an aunt, business owner, member of a faith community – we expect that the types of people we spend time with will evolve with our changing needs for friendship, entertainment and support.

As leaders in #socialchange we don’t always give thought to when our organizational relationships are serving us well. Since time and resources are finite and valuable, that’s a problem.

I have noted that the most successful #socialentrepreneurs among my clients are always assessing their collaborations. They keep track of when the priorities of longtime partners may be diverging. They look for influential organizations whose interests are adjacent to theirs, and who could be cultivated to become important allies.

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The Alchemy of Regular Measurement

I bet you have a friend who owns an Apple watch, or a Garmin.

Who keeps track of how many steps he’s taken before breakfast. Or how many vertical [feet? meters?] she’s skied in her morning on the slopes.

Like me, did you think . . . what’s up with that? Is it making him healthier? Is she becoming a better skier? Is it worth the time (and money)?

Reading leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith’s book The Earned Life my first reaction was similar. 

Goldsmith convened his international clientele in weekly eight-person Zoom meetings during the first months of the COVID pandemic. At these meetings, each participant reported their self-identified score on six life-management questions that Goldsmith devised based on his highly successful CEO coaching practice.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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:

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