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Making Evaluation Metabolic

Our research also looks beyond the cultural sector to other kinds of nonprofits. Recently, I spoke with an education research and evaluation organization and a venture philanthropy investment group. A common theme stood out: the process of gathering information for evaluation needs to be embedded in the functioning of an organization or project. Otherwise evaluation becomes a burdensome add-on. As Michael Gilbert argues in Integrated Program Evaluation: A Three Part Vision for Better Leadership, Planning, and Effectiveness, “good evaluation is integrated evaluation.” The implication of course, is that the organization has to have the capacity in its leadership and staff to conceptualize strategic outcomes, and the systems to gather, analyze, and summarize data. The venture philanthropy group I spoke with takes a serious and far-sighted approach, funding organizations to create a theory of change, define outcomes, measure outcomes, and train staff to manage performance measurement.

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