Effective Partners have systems in place to continually monitor, assess, and evaluate the partnership. Evaluations are the tools used to track the progress and health of a partnership toward the shared vision or goal. (2018) In addition, they provide a conduit for continuous learning within the organization. This continuous evaluation serves as the heart monitor for the organization and allows the organization to understand both what progress is being made and how and why that progress is happening. (Preskill, 2014)
For evaluation to be successful an environment of trust and honesty must first be established. Effective evaluation requires honest reflection and feedback. Organizations that are built on a culture of growth and learning understand that failure is as important to progress as a success. Evaluations need to be accurate reflections of the current state of the organization in order to drive further improvements and provide the necessary course corrections that will lead to ultimate success. Members need opportunities to express their concerns without fear of retribution. A culture of growth should be established early to reinforce the idea that although growth and improvement is the goal, failure is an opportunity to learn and adapt to find more effective methods.
Effective monitoring highlights changes for partners, beneficiaries, stakeholders and donors. Indicators used should be broad but flexible to allow for adaptation within the project. The primary goal is to identify the progress made during the partnership. Quality measurements will include both quantitative and qualitative data points. (Rein, 2005)
Effective measurement starts with an understanding of why you are collecting the measurements. The best measurements serve to support and inform everyone involved in the partnership. (Rein, 2005)
Measurements should answer the following questions:
- Rationale: How effective was the partnership at meeting the goals and objectives outlined in the partnership plan? Why did the partnership form and is this still a valid reason moving forward?
- Impact: What has the partnership achieved? What have been the impacts on the beneficiaries, stakeholders, donors, and to the partners themselves as a result of the partnership?
- Goals: Did the partnership achieve what it set out to achieve?
- Value: Provide a cost-benefit analysis, what did it take to achieve the impact and was the benefits commensurate with that cost?
- Alternatives: Is there a better way we can work together? How can we adjust to address challenges that might have occurred?
Effective evaluations take time to perform and include multiple data points. Taking the time to prepare for and develop effective evaluation measures ensures that the final results provide significant insight into the partnership that can help drive improvements, celebrate success, and provide necessary course corrections. Below is a basic outline to prepare for, plan, and execute effective evaluations:
- Identify why you need to perform the evaluation. Some reasons to perform an evaluation include:
- Evaluating the relationship to identify areas of conflict or misunderstanding.
- Evaluating progress toward the goal.
- Evaluating the effectiveness of an initiative or program.
- What impact will the finding have? For example:
- Share progress toward the objectives with stakeholders and supporters.
- Improve the relationship among the partners
- Plan future partnerships
- Make course corrections for improvement
- What are the core questions the evaluation should answer?
- Questions need to be specific and measurable.
- They can use both quantifiable and qualitative data.
- Develop the evaluation plan.
- Provide details about how data will be collected including reviewing reports, statistics, collecting surveys, etc…
- Include who will participate in the evaluation both in the evaluator role and who will provide insights into the progress of the program.
- Identify how the data will be evaluated and reported on.
- Clarify opportunities for high-level stakeholders to review and comment on the results before they are finalized.
- Ensure the plan is time-bound by providing expected completion dates for each step in the evaluation.
- Carry out the evaluation plan and utilize the results.
(Partnership Toolkit: Tools for building and sustaining successful partnerships, 2001)
Monitoring is an essential task of a partnership. While this can take many forms depending on the scope of the partnership. It is essentially a guide on how the organization will monitor progress and ensure the implementation of the partnership agreements. This can include site visits, meetings, and other methods of reviewing the progress of the partnership. (Unicef, 2017)
Regular progress reports provide a quick checkpoint for partners to monitor and evaluate progress on initiatives and projects, anticipate changes, and re-align. These can result in quick course corrections that keep the partnership on track. As an added component these check-ups should also serve to provide a brief insight into the health of the partnership. This allows stakeholders to navigate conflicts effectively and before they grow into a larger issue, alleviate negative perceptions, and maintain a positive relationship.
Annual reviews serve as a more in-depth evaluation of the partnership. The annual review is a time of reflection when the partnership reports on the successes and challenges the organization has faced during the past year. Identifies lessons learned and when appropriate the partnership re-aligns for the next steps.
Re-visioning can take place at any point in the partnership lifecycle, however, it frequently aligns with an established endpoint for the partnership. The Re-visioning period is a time when partners reflect on the progress they have made, lessons learned, the quality of the relationship, and the continued value of continuing the partnership. If during the re-visioning process the partners agree to continue forward together, the partnership cycle starts new as they re-align to a set of shared goals and objectives and re-negotiate the guidelines of the partnership.
Real-World Partnerships: Evaluating Partnerships
Partnership evaluation is the process of evaluating the success, failure, or learnings of partners. Our example organizations agree that evaluation is an ongoing process that is fluid and ongoing.
Hope & A Future is celebrating 15 years in the valley. They have built and maintain a network of loyal partners in a variety of aspects of the organization. They emphasize the importance of evaluating outcomes as part of their evaluation procedures on the success fo the partnership. In addition, they use databases to manage relationships and learn the best ways to interact with particular partners. This goes back to the importance of communication and grace that they continually emphasize as part of the their partnership process. Their emphasis on building a relationship is furthered through the data they keep that helps guide the communication among the various partners.
The House of Refuge is a grant-funded organization that relies heavily on outcomes. They measure a variety of numbers to meet the requirements of grant funders and to attract potential companies and volunteers to the work that they do. They noted the importance of maintaining accurate records and the role that spreadsheets play in tracking their progress toward partnership goals.
Partnership Toolkit: Tools for Building and Sustaining Successful Partnerships. (2001). Partnership Toolkit: Tools for Building and Sustaining Successful Partnerships. Retrieved from https://www.sparc.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/the-partnership-toolkit.pdf (Links to an external site).
Preskill, H., Parkhurst, M., & Juster, J. S. (2014). Resources. Retrieved November 18, 2019, from https://www.collectiveimpactforum.org/resources/guide-evaluating-collective-impact (Links to an external site).
Rein, M., Stott, L., Yambayamba, K., Hardman, S. & Reid, S. (2005). Working Together: A Critical Analysis of Cross-Sector Partnerships in Southern Africa. Cambridge: The University of Cambridge Programme for Industry, UK: p. 59-76. Retrieved From: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/57a08c5ced915d622c0012c9/CrossSectorPartnershipsFinalReport.pdf (Links to an external site).
Strengthening Nonprofits: A Capacity Builder’s Library (2010). Partnerships: Frameworks for Working Together, Chapter 6: Partnership Challenges and Evaluations. National Resource Centers. Retrieved from: http://www.strengtheningnonprofits.org/resources/e-learning/online/partnerships/default.aspx?chp=6 (Links to an external site).
UNICEF. (2017).Implementation, monitoring, and reporting. Civil Society Partnerships. Retrieved From: https://www.unicef.org/about/partnerships/index_60039.html (Links to an external site.)