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  • Writer's pictureLeah Josephson

How can we use evaluation in this time of community crisis?

Over the past few weeks our Emergence Collective team has talked with project partners and colleagues in our communities about the challenges of adapting quickly to our changing environments, personally and within organizations. Our partners are making changes quickly, often with little time to reflect or gather feedback. We’re all doing the best we can under tough circumstances.

In many cases we’re finding that nontraditional evaluation approaches can be helpful to strengthen decision making and reflection in complex circumstances. We pulled together some examples of supportive evaluation activities for organizations and leaders managing COVID-19 response efforts. Click here for the full list of evaluation questions and methods to consider integrating into your work in this moment.

Many of these methods could be facilitated by internal organizational staff, by external evaluators, or collaboratively between internal leaders and evaluators, and scaled in size depending on organizational capacity.

Some of the ideas and guiding questions in this document are pulled from or inspired by materials produced by our colleagues, including Michael Quinn Patton’s book Developmental Evaluation and blog post Evaluation Implications of the Coronavirus Global Health Pandemic Emergency, as well as Bridgespan’s collection of COVID-19 response resources.

In deciding evaluation approaches to use during times of crisis, our team offers the following principles:

  • Participant-focused: As much as possible, evaluation activities should be developed in collaboration with those most affected by injustices or community challenges. This process will lead to more comprehensive decision-making and more community buy-in.

  • Scalable: All evaluation activities recommended in this document can be adjusted in scale to match varying organizational capacity in regard to staffing, technology access, etc.

  • Think outside the box: Evaluation is expansive – feel free to introduce qualitative and quantitative data collection methods that go beyond traditional approaches.

  • “Good enough”: Especially in a time of crisis, there’s no need to be fixated on the rigor of your methods. Gather enough information to help you make decisions in real time, not to prove a hypothesis beyond a reasonable doubt.

We're always here if you want to bounce around ideas or talk through how to implement any of these small evaluation projects! Just send us an email at

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