Great Practices for Evaluation Advisory Committee (EAC) Facilitators- Part 2: Running an EAC

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This is the second and final blog post of a 2-part series highlighting suggested practices for organizing and facilitating an Evaluation Advisory Committee (EAC). Our previous post provided some background on EACs and shared great practices for setting up an EAC. Now that we have established how important the initial setup is, we want to share three key areas that are important for ongoing EAC administration: communication, relationship building and time management. Consideration of these three areas will help you to facilitate productive and engaging meetings. 

Encouraging Communication

Tip No. 5: Engage EAC members in a variety of ways

People engage and communicate in various ways. It is helpful to consider and accommodate individual communication styles whenever possible. Communication styles are often influenced by personality, cultural backgrounds and lived/living experiences. For example, some may feel more or less comfortable with speaking in a group setting or communicating with people who hold different identities than their own. In order to create a productive and successful EAC, it is critical that you foster an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their perspectives and hearing their peers’ perspectives. Offering a variety of ways for participants to engage and communicate will help them maintain interest in the work and be more productive.

  • How: 
    • Offer multiple ways to participate in committee meetings and complete assignments (e.g. surveys, chat, breakout rooms, digital whiteboards & other visual elements).
    • Use targeted outreach and communication to encourage member engagement and retention.
  • Why
    • Different people respond to different things – it is important to make people feel empowered to share their knowledge and expertise, in ways that make them comfortable, while being sure to avoid projecting assumptions onto people.  
    • Factors such as race or gender may impact how comfortable people are speaking in certain settings. From an equity standpoint it is important to facilitate in a way that makes space for various communication styles.  

Tip No. 6: Maintain a balanced dynamic between group members

The purpose of an EAC is to convene subject area experts (both the facilitators and members) to contribute to and strengthen evaluation activities. As with any group setting, power imbalances may arise and threaten the group’s success. To level power dynamics, it is imperative that you create an environment of open communication. That is, an environment where EAC members recognize the value of their own contributions and feel empowered to share their knowledge and one where those with more positional power (including you as the facilitator) understand that they must make space for others to share their knowledge. 

  • How: 
    • Manage time and space during meetings so that all participants are able to and feel encouraged to contribute to the conversation.
    • As facilitators, be sure to use affirming, non-patronizing language. For example, avoid using language that implies that evaluators have more expertise because of their backgrounds or that suggests that what EAC members bring to the table is less valuable.
Affirming language: knowledgeable, competent, expert

Patronizing language: powerless, underprivileged, marginalized
  • Why: 
    • Power imbalances can detrimentally impact people’s ability to collaborate and build relationships. These imbalances can also negatively impact the overall success of the committee.

Relationship Building 

Tip No. 7: Set aside time for relationship building activities

A successful EAC is one that serves the purpose of the evaluation and also one that provides a benefit to participants. EAC participants benefit from the opportunity to build relationships and to exchange ideas with committee peers. For this reason, it is important to make time and space for participants to do this. While it may seem like a distraction from the evaluation planning activities, taking time to develop genuine relationships through activities like networking and information-sharing, can help improve the group’s overall effectiveness. 

 Idea Exchange Activity Example

 Call: Please share a work-related puzzle or a problem you’ve been wrestling 
 with lately? 

 Response: Talk about what was shared, but do not give advice. Instead, ask 
 questions and draw parallels to your own work.
  • How: 
    • Provide ample time for relationship building activities like ice breakers, goal setting, and networking during both the early, formative stages of the committee and throughout the rest of the working period.
    • See yourself, the evaluator, as part of these relationships. Participate as a member and be vulnerable during relationship building activities.
    • Draft and publish an EAC directory that includes a bio, headshot and contact information as a way to encourage offline conversation between members.
  • Why
    • Growth in networks and relationships are valuable outcomes of the EAC. Engaging in thoughtfully-designed relationship building activities can help participants get to know each other and each other’s work. 

Time Management

Tip No 8: Keep organized and manage meeting time effectively

Today’s world is busier than ever. This means that it can be difficult to get people to commit to taking on extracurriculars, like participating in an EAC. However, people may be more willing and comfortable with investing time in an opportunity like an EAC if they feel their time is being spent well and productively. You can keep people engaged and active by using meeting time in a way that values participant’s time.

  • How: 
    • Send post-meeting summaries. You can develop a template and share the information in the same way each time.
    • Maintain a shared folder and remind EAC members how and where to access materials.
    • Send meeting agendas in advance; start and end meetings on time.
  • Why
    • Managing time effectively and keeping organized will help EAC members recognize that you value and respect their time and contributions.
    • Consistent and thoughtful communication with EAC members will strengthen relationships, and it can also help people understand whether they have the capacity to continue on the committee. 

We hope that you find these tips useful. Our learnings come from our experience facilitating EACs for various projects. Please keep in mind that while we label these “great practices,” each committee is unique and it is important to consider what works best for your situation and get input and feedback from your committee members about their own priorities and preferences.

Nubia Goodwin, MPH

Research Associate

Amanda Robinson, PhD

Senior Research and Evaluation Project Manager