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Among the most memorable projects I’ve done are a couple of evaluations on networks and consortia. I find these types of evaluations really fascinating as the clients are all generally independent organisations working together towards shared goals or for a shared grant. This brings into play a lot of different elements and requires both slightly different assessment methods and tools and also different client management approaches.

Below are my thoughts on the top methods to use for a network evaluation:

  • Contribution Analysis: almost as if it was built for network or consortia evaluations, contribution analysis does what it says on the tin and considers how each organisation has contributed to the results that have been evidenced.
  • Process Tracing: yes, this is used a lot with contribution analysis and there are even some consultants who have blended the two together to come up with contribution tracing (I’ll keep my thoughts this to myself). Process tracing can help to identify both the evidence that needs to be reviewed or analysed and the different events, activities and groups that contribute towards a particular outcome.
  • Raynor’s Framework: this approach is specifically designed for evaluating networks and consortia and provides a very useful focus for evaluation design.

    Raynor’s Framework (Jared Raynor, 2010)

    By examining the individual members of the network, the network itself and the results of the network, this approach can assess the effectiveness and impact of a network approach.

 

Working with more than one client does require a few different approaches:

  • Be clear on the reporting structure for the evaluation and the consultation / review structure.
  • Build in extra time for consensus building and management meetings
  • Ensure that every client’s voice is heard

Working with multiple organisations on broad issues and activities whose impact can accumulate over time can be richly rewarding. But be sure to adapt your approach to cater for the specific needs of a network.

Have you ever worked with a network or a group of clients? What techniques, tools and approaches did you use?


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