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Tuesday, September 17 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
Communities of Practice, mentoring and evaluation advice: using soft power approaches to build capacity

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Florent Gomez (NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation)

In the same way that some countries use culture as a soft power approach to extend their influence, evaluation should give serious consideration to soft capacity building tools such as Communities of Practice. This approach can be incredibly effective in diffusing evaluative thinking across organisations that are less familiar with it.

A New South Wales government department which is not a traditional stronghold for evaluation – as compared to human services departments such as education, health or community services – has established a successful Evaluation Community of Practice since November 2017. The Community of Practice brings together staff with varying levels of evaluation maturity to ‘share the love for evaluation’. The intent is to offer a more informal and less intimidating forum for participants to share challenges and learning than a traditional expert-to-learner approach. Over 50 people gather at each quarterly event where presenters provide case studies, panel discussions and practical exercises such as collectively developing a program logic or crafting good survey questions.

After a year and a half, participants reported an increased understanding of what evaluation is about and of key tools such as program logic, as well as applying those learning back in their workplace. The Community of Practice has opened up the conversation on evaluation across the organisation. While a slow and diffuse process, there is now a growing interest in evidence-based approaches, outcome framing and evaluative thinking.

Other soft power approaches used involve staff mentoring and evaluation advice. These have proved to be particularly powerful in improving the quality of evaluations – and are not necessarily much more resource intensive than formal training. Provided at the initial stage, targeted evaluation advice contributes to getting the evaluation framing right which generates a better evaluation brief. This, in turn, results in better evaluation outcomes, where the evaluation produces evidence around what the organisation is interested to learn about.

avatar for Carolyn Hooper

Carolyn Hooper

Evaluation + Research Senior Consultant, Allen + Clarke
I'm a social scientist, with a preference for qualitative methods. I've been working in evaluation for seven 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 Florent Gomez

Florent Gomez

Manager, Planning and Evaluation, NSW Department of Customer Service
avatar for Michelle Bowron

Michelle Bowron

NSW Department of Customer Service
Currently working in the NSW Department of Customer Service and responsible for delivering evaluation activities and increasing evaluation awareness. I have an interest in learning more about evaluation approaches and the value it adds to existing and future business initiatives... Read More →

Tuesday September 17, 2019 2:30pm - 3:00pm AEST