Building Evaluation Capacity in a Complex World: Practical Lessons for Organization and Project Leaders
Today institutional and project leaders are faced with two critical dilemmas: (1) building the capacity to respond to the increasing evaluation and accountability demands of funders and stakeholders; and (2) managing the complexities of interconnected, multifaceted, ongoing institutional and cross-institutional work. These challenges require leaders to go beyond traditional approaches to professional development and consider the complex ways that systems of professionals communicate, interact, and evolve. This report draws from three years of research as part of the National Science Foundation-funded Complex Adaptive Systems as a Model for Network Evaluation (CASNET) project to provide concrete, evidence-based recommendations for professionals seeking to address these challenges. The information is particularly designed for those working to develop evaluation capacity in complex organizations or in projects with multiple partners. However, we believe the recommendations can inform efforts to support evaluation at any scale and might also suggest approaches to other initiatives beyond evaluation capacity building. Similarly, although the CASNET project focused on education professionals working in museums and science centers, we believe the findings may be of relevance to any field grappling with the challenges of supporting evaluation capacity building within complex networks of individuals and institutions.
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