How do I evaluate collaborative efforts
Evaluation of collaborative(1) efforts is typically considered a subset of formative evaluation. Collaborative efforts may be evaluated to assess processes or the quality of the collaboration. Often, the evaluation concerns how collaborations are contributing toward advancing a set of shared goals. A common mistake organizations and evaluators make when evaluating collaboratives is to assume a stronger collaboration is a better collaboration. An objective view may show that lower levels of collaboration can appropriately meet intended outcomes for one set of collaborators, while stronger levels of collaboration are needed and/or sought in other instances. Collaboratives are also constantly changing within and between the organizations involved. Therefore, more open systems and adaptive approaches to evaluation are fitting. Several tools have emerged in recent years to improve the ability to appropriately assess and more easily visualize collaboration qualities, strength levels, and the impacts collaboratives are having on intended and unintended outcomes. (2,3,4)The evaluation method you choose depends on what you want to know, so first develop some evaluation questions. The questions might relate to working together, finding and establishing leadership, promoting the work of the collaboration in the community, or planning for the continuation of the collaborative. There are questionnaires designed to ask members about collaborative activities. You may find some questionnaires like that on www.cyfernet.org. You might also want to interview collaboration members as well as community members who are benefiting from the collaboration. Other methodologies to try are focus groups with members of the collaboration and asset mapping to determine what each member brings to the collaboration and how that changes over the course of developing and implementing the program.
(1) A collaborative is defined as a group working together to achieve a shared vision. Members engage in one or more processes to constructively explore differences and complementary qualities, and search for/ implement solutions that extend beyond the limited vision and/or set of resources for each by themselves. [Gray, B. (1989). Collaborating: Finding common ground for multi-party problems. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.](2) Gajda, R. 2004. Utilizing collaboration theory to evaluate strategic alliances. American Journal of Evaluation. 25(1): 65-77.(3) Norris, K. 2012. Strengthening collaborations - communicating timely evidence of impact. Priester National Extension Health Conference, Washington, DC, April 2012.(4) Conley, A and M.A. Moote. 2003. Evaluating collaborative natural resource management. Society and Natural Resources. 16:371-386