Great Practices for Evaluation Advisory Committees (EAC) Facilitators- Part 1: Setting up an EAC

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At ICH, we’ve found that our evaluation work can be significantly enhanced by working with the community members and program participants of the programs we are evaluating. They help us shape our evaluation design, implementation and analysis, to make sure that the needs and perspectives of those on the ground are incorporated into the process. This ensures our evaluation produces the best possible information in the most equitable way. One very effective way we’ve engaged program participants in our evaluation is through the use of evaluation advisory committees (EACs). Working with these committees, which are usually made up of program participants or grantees, has served ICH well on several of our projects and we’ve learned a lot about how to work effectively while minimizing burden and confusion for participants. We wanted to share some key learnings about great practices for working with an EAC in the hope that this will encourage others to put together similar groups for their own work. 

This post focuses on things to consider during the planning and formation of an EAC. The work put in to make sure the EAC’s kickoff goes well is worth the investment. There will be a follow up blog on great practices for running the committee once it is established.

Recruitment

Tip No. 1: Be clear about the purpose of the EAC 

It is important that everyone involved in the EAC has a clear understanding of what the EAC will and will not do. This allows potential participants to make an informed decision about joining the EAC. It is worth taking time, as the evaluation team, to think through what role the EAC will have, and how their feedback will be incorporated or shared with others. Sharing those plans with potential participants will help them have a clear sense of what being on an EAC will be like and what they’ll get out of the experience.

  • How:
      • Provide a robust job description that lays out participation details, and make sure it’s available with accessibility features and in multiple languages (depending on the populations you are seeking to engage).
      • Use an interest form for recruitment, where potential participants can indicate what they hope to get out of participating.
  • Why:
    • In order to encourage participation from the broad variety of people who could potentially contribute, it’s important to ensure they have equal access to resources to learn about the opportunity.

Tip No. 2: Ensure the recruitment process is structured to encourage participation from people who might not be familiar with evaluation 

EACs are a great way to ensure diverse perspectives are included in the evaluation, but, to make that happen, you have to recruit people in a way that welcomes that diversity. Recruitment activities should show people the multiple types of expertise that would be valued on the committee, and should be very clear about whether or not any prior experience with evaluation is needed. At the same time, it’s also important to make sure that the people you do outreach to feel empowered to say no to participation.

Image 1: Example of job description

  • How:
      • Ensure recruitment materials and efforts center on building a diverse committee with different types of relevant experience and perspectives.
      • Offer office hours and/or set individualized meetings to connect with potential participants and answer their questions.
      • Recruit participants with different types of positions or roles within the program being evaluated: grantees and subgrantees, community members and organization leaders, etc.
  • Why:
    • It’s important from an equity standpoint to have diverse opinions, roles and lived experiences represented on the committee. Additionally, including different perspectives ensures the evaluation doesn’t overlook important ideas.
    • In addition to written recruitment materials, meetings give potential members the chance to ask questions and determine whether they have the interest and capacity to participate in the committee.

Establishing the EAC

Tip No. 3: Fully inform participants about expectations

As you begin to recruit participants for the EAC, it is important to make sure that they are fully informed about the committee’s structure and the expected time commitment. 

  • How:
      • Develop an informal contract to help outline expectations. It can include information about how often the EAC meets, how people are expected to participate in meetings, what they will be expected to do outside of meetings, and how many hours they will spend on EAC work.
  • Why: 
    • Formal (but not burdensome) processes helps members see the EAC as a professional group and helps keep them aware of expectations and responsibilities.

Tip No. 4: Plan for and discuss payment logistics at the beginning of the process

EAC members provide valuable guidance and should be compensated fairly for their time. However, there can be complications that arise with paying stipends to individuals, who may be representing their organizations, and may not have a lot of experience with or capacity for handling payments of this type. It is important to figure out the logistics of payments, including the timeline and process, early. Once you figure out what works for you and your own organization’s finance systems, have clear conversations with EAC participants about payment options.

  • How:
      • If possible, provide an option for both organizational and individual payments and be explicit and upfront about the availability of these options during recruitment.
      • Provide written guidelines about the payment process, including any expectations about how much time participants will have to invest or actions they will need to take in order to receive payment.
      • Communicate and follow up about payments in a timely manner.
  • Why:
    • It can be helpful to offer different types of payment options because people’s ability to participate may be affected by their position in their respective organizations and whether or not they’ll be paid directly for participation. It is important to be upfront about this information so people can make an informed decision about their ability to be in the EAC.
    • Being clear about compensation helps make sure that EAC members understand that we respect and value their time.
    • From an equity perspective, we want to make sure that members are paid for their time, but we don’t want it to be a burden on them to get those funds.

These are just a few of our learnings from our work with EACs, and we hope that they’re helpful to others thinking about setting up their own committees. Please keep an eye out for our next post on EACs, which will focus on how to effectively work together and make the most of meetings.

 

Amanda Robinson, PhD

Senior Research and Evaluation Project Manager

Nubia Goodwin, MPH

Research Associate