Steven Marwick, ESS Director explains ESS’s self-evaluation practice and what we do with our learning
One day in April I returned from a meeting to find the ESS team hunched silently over their computers, emanating a Cloud of Doom. Yes, it was annual self-evaluation time! That’s when we take our own medicine and evaluate ourselves! Just like many others in the third sector, we find ourselves wrestling with the database, hunting for feedback we know we put somewhere and getting excited about the numbers of things we’ve done before remembering to ask ‘so what?’. It’s tough for ESS too.
So why do we put ourselves through it? Of course the answer is because evaluation is useful!
One of the many ways we collect evaluation feedback is through our stakeholder survey. The 2017 survey was filled in by 82 people. That is a fairly small proportion of everyone we work with so we need to be cautious about the results. However the wonderful people who took the time to complete the survey gave us rich evaluation information that we can integrate with other evaluation data we have collected.
Here are three ways the stakeholder survey is useful – and used.
Evaluation means getting better
Our survey results were positive. We scored extremely well in stakeholder feedback about achievement of ESS’s own aim and outcomes. Hurrah for us.
But we don’t rest on our laurels at ESS. There are things we can do better. For example our stakeholders told us they love the ESS website but gave us practical ideas about how to organise it better and make it easier to find resources. This in turn made the case for our board to set aside money so we can act on these suggestions and make the website even better in the coming year.
Evaluation means new insights
Our survey results gave us interesting insights into how our stakeholders see ESS. They say that our team’s top strength, even more than evaluation knowledge and skills, is the way that we work with organisations; the approach and values we bring to our work. That’s good to know because it informs how we explain our role to new organisations we work with. It guides our staff training and recruitment. And we can feed that learning into messages for funders and policy-makers about how to support the sector productively.
Evaluation is celebration
Earlier in this blog I wrote dismissively, ‘hurrah for us’. However, I should not dismiss the positive. It is an absolute tonic to read the lovely things our stakeholders say about us and to hear about their achievements that we, in a small way, have helped with.
Evaluation should never just be a PR exercise. But it is a way of getting positive validation. It helps us celebrate that for much of the time, our hard work is worth it. And what better way to chase away the clouds of doom!
Many thanks to all those who very kindly took the time to complete our 2017 survey.