man jumping over pond

Appreciative Inquiry: A Core Competency in Evaluation Practice

This post kicks off a brief blog series on evaluation at EnCompass. We begin with an excerpt from our new paper, Mapping Outcomes: Embedding evaluation in the life of an organization for improved social change programming, by Tessie Catsambas and Lynne Franco. For more, check back on Wednesdays throughout February.

The most recent frameworks of evaluation competencies show that an evaluation methodology is not complete without a clear sense of how it should be implemented. It is no longer enough to have competencies in evaluative thinking and framing, evaluation design, and facilitation of data collection with strong interpersonal skills; it is also important to have skills in stakeholder engagement and the broader management of the evaluation process. These skills are essential for evaluator’s role in supporting organizational learning and improvement. And, their importance for the success of evaluation is a focus of our recent paper, Mapping Outcomes. We offer an excerpt below.

The Evaluator as Facilitator

Whom you engage in this process and how you engage them are critical. The organizational or programmatic outcome map is most useful if it is a result of facilitated, interactive, and collaborative deliberations and conversations. As evaluators, we recommend engaging a wide set of individuals and stakeholders—staff, community members, partners, funders, and advisors. This is a benefit in itself, because it gets the whole organization thinking strategically, creatively, and evaluatively.

We encourage organizations to develop inclusive, interactive, and collaborative processes and to be creative in how they engage people to come up with the map of outcomes. Evaluators can help facilitate this process. We further encourage those commissioning evaluations to require multi-stakeholder engagement at every phase of the evaluation; these engagements will lead not only to better evaluations and learning, but also to more strategic and coherent relationships.

An Empowering Approach

Because evaluation frequently increases stress in organizations and programs being evaluated, evaluators will engage organizations more productively if they use empowering processes. EnCompass consistently embeds Appreciative Inquiry in its evaluation facilitation, because it provides a strong foundation for this engagement process, with powerful results.

Appreciative Inquiry begins by involving participants in a systematic review of successful experiences and achievements, helps them draw lessons from that review, and explores the alignment of mission, values, and theory of change, as well as future directions for the organization. Frequently, participants forget they are involved in an evaluation and begin speaking directly about their work, offering open and honest reflections.

This reframing from “What’s wrong, what’s missing, and why?” to “What has worked and what are your wishes for the best outcomes?” is powerful. It helps participants manage the stress of evaluation and helps shift evaluation from a contentious and sometimes punitive experience into a constructive and hopeful experience, which makes it easier and more productive to address disagreements and discuss challenges. To learn how, read the full paper on embedding evaluation in the life of an organization.

Ready to Go Deeper?

Sign up for an upcoming virtual course on evaluation at the EnCompass Learning Center:

These and many other courses are available. Register today to reserve your spot!

Photo by Kid Circus on Unsplash

EnCompass Staff

EnCompass offers innovative solutions for organizational excellence.  We seek to enhance the impact and capacity of government and multilateral agencies, corporations, and nonprofits around the world through customized services in organizational and leadership development, training, technical assistance, and evaluation.

Skip to content