Remember NOLA Eval?
We have big news! And a lot of it!
First things first:
Where we are now…
WE HAVE CREATED A STEERING COMMITTEE!
We are no longer evaluators floating around in this wide “community of practice sphere”… we have structure! This new group was elected at our April meeting, after providing the group with bios and statements of interest for their positions. The winners of our election are as follows:
How to legally structure the organization has been a major subject for discussion since NOLA Eval was created. We’ve discovered that other groups such as ours were often registered as 501c6’s, thus beginning the research and concrete steps to make this registration possible. Will, the new Chair, filed the first part of the application and we were swiftly approved! Although we still have significant hurdles to clear, it is exciting to have the first part of the process completed. Here’s to celebrating red-tape progress in all its forms!!
*We’re looking forward to getting a bank account so we can have more perks (think: food @ meetings) for members.
What comes next:
With all the recent changes in NOLA Eval, a major point of discussion has revolved around what we envision for the future of the organization. Now, we need to decide
The purpose of NOLA eval is (a) to provide professional resources for members - capacity building, networking, etc., (b) be a centralized place where the supply and demand for evaluation can meet transparently, and (c) advocate for greater awareness and use of high-quality evaluation among local service providers and funders.
So far internally we have created:
Steering committee guidelines Bylaws
And are working on creating our...
The goals document consists of 3-6-12 month and long-term goals for NOLA Eval
For example, one of our long-term membership goals is that “Engagement is more important than expansion. Member numbers should adjust as-needed to be representative of the size of professional evaluator corps in New Orleans and Louisiana.”
At our last meeting, we hosted three guests with broad-ranging knowledge of the local philanthropic sector:
Joann Ricci of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Alessandra Jerolleman formerly at UNO’s non-profit leadership program (recently transitioned to Jacksonville State University) and Allison Plyer of The Data Center. The conversation was passionate and could have gone on for hours longer - some tidbits:
Evaluation came in close to the bottom of ‘needs’ according non-profits in a 2016 GNOF survey. When ‘peeling back the onion,’ however, the hidden demand for evaluation becomes obvious in other forms.
Building capacity in evaluation is a difficult task, even according to national leaders in the area. It requires not just behavior/practice change, but cultural shifts as well.
Demand for evaluation in other sectors seems primarily driven by external factors like funding requirements from governments and donors. Other important drivers include exposure to peer organizations doing evaluation and sector/professional norms.
Evaluation being exclusively driven by the need to meet funding requirements can have detrimental effects. If you focus too much on measuring outputs (number of houses built), it can blind you to what really matters (people in need living in quality housing).
“Evaluation” is such a scary word - it’s been made into a pariah. It may be better to focus on a learning approach.
We closed the meeting with an agreement to schedule some informal meetings bringing together non-profit leadership and people in the evaluation sector. We aim to mythbust, break down some of the misconceptions, and start building the more positive, learning-oriented approach.
We look forward to keeping you updated on the progress of NOLA Eval, and if you're interested in joining feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.