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Tuesday, September 17 • 1:30pm - 2:00pm
"Catching the MEL bug": Using an evaluation needs assessment to unpack evaluation capacity

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Mark Planigale (Lirata Ltd), Kathryn Robb (Djirra)

Moving evaluation out of the box involves empowering organisations to shape and use Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) for their own purposes. How can we demystify and reframe MEL so we can support organisations to design and use evaluation effectively?

An evaluation needs assessment can be a vital step in this journey. Through a needs assessment, we can engage stakeholders in identifying strengths, gaps and areas for development in MEL within a team or organisation. A needs assessment also explores how stakeholders value MEL and the types of MEL which will be meaningful and useful for their context. This informs the development of tailored strategies to improve MEL capacity, while also generating understanding and enthusiasm for change.

In this paper we outline a systematic approach to evaluation needs assessment. Building on previous approaches (e.g. Preskill & Torres 1999; Volkov & King 2007; Preskill & Boyle 2008), we present a framework of 11 capacity domains, organised using three lenses: individual capacity, team and organisational capacity, and MEL life cycle. A combination of quantitative and qualitative data collection oriented around these domains helps to generate a nuanced mapping of capacity, an overview of informational needs, and a baseline against which progress can be measured.

How can this approach be applied in practice? We share a case study of an evaluation needs assessment undertaken in partnership between an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation and an evaluation consultancy. We reflect together on why it was important to undertake the needs assessment, lessons learned through the organisation's experience of "catching the MEL bug", and the relationships, tools and conversations which have facilitated this journey. We conclude with practical suggestions for adapting and using this framework in other contexts

avatar for Carolyn Hooper

Carolyn Hooper

Evaluation + Research Consultant, Allen + Clarke
I'm a social scientist, with a preference for qualitative methods. I've been working in evaluation for four years and I love the variety of opportunities I get to make a difference. My doctorate in Public Health means I often work on health-related evaluations, examining interventions... Read More →

avatar for Mark Planigale

Mark Planigale

CEO, Lirata Ltd
I am the CEO and evaluation practice lead for Lirata Ltd (www.lirata.com) - an independent non-for-profit organisation based in Melbourne. We work to advance social justice by strengthening the enablers and reducing the barriers to positive social change.We partner widely with service... Read More →

Tuesday September 17, 2019 1:30pm - 2:00pm AEST