A Practical Guide for Engaging Stakeholders in Developing Evaluation Questions

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has been a long-standing leader in applying program evaluation to learn from our work to improve the health and health care of all Americans. In an effort to show our commitment to the field, RWJF commissioned FSG Social Impact Advisors to develop a guide for program officers, grant recipients, evaluators, researchers, and others interested in evaluation on how to engage stakeholders in developing evaluation questions. Since stakeholders are potential users of evaluation findings, their input into the scope of the evaluation is critical to ensuring the integrity and value of evaluation results.

This guide provides the reader with a five-step process for involving stakeholders in developing evaluation questions, and includes a set of four worksheets to facilitate this process.

Step 1: Prepare for stakeholder engagement. This section emphasizes the importance of establishing a thorough understanding of the program’s history, its anticipated outcomes, and the external forces that influence the program’s design and implementation.

Step 2: Identify potential stakeholders. This section, accompanied by Planning Worksheet #1, outlines questions that should be asked in identifying stakeholders who offer valuable perspectives, expertise, and influence.

Step 3: Prioritize the list of stakeholders. This section describes how to prioritize the list of potential stakeholders in order to maintain a group of diverse perspectives while complying with time, monetary, and feasibility constraints. Planning Worksheet #2 guides this process.

Step 4: Consider potential stakeholders’ motivations for participating. This section provides insights into the likely incentives for stakeholders’ involvement in the question development process.

Step 5: Select a stakeholder engagement strategy. This section outlines the critical factors in choosing an engagement strategy, which may vary by stakeholder group. Planning Worksheets #3 and #4 accompany this section.

Appendices. The guide includes a case example for applying the five-step process for engaging stakeholders (Appendix A), additional evaluation resources (Appendix B), and a list of interviewees who contributed to the development of the step-by-step guide (Appendix C).

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