Higher Ed Insight provides evaluation and strategic planning services to colleges and universities, funders, nonprofits, government agencies, and other organizations in the higher education field.
What is Insight Learning?
Today, most organizations seek to evaluate their work in one way or another. Many of our clients are engaged in the evaluation of key programmatic outcomes to demonstrate their impact to boards and other stakeholders. Yet, too often, their evaluations are created ad hoc without adequate planning; as a result, they miss opportunities for organizational learning that is strategically targeted to improve future decision-making.
The Insight Learning Framework was created by HEI to help organizations like yours navigate the process of planning for impactful evaluation and organizational learning. Organizations, departments, or project teams can use this framework to design a plan to assess the attainment of key goals. By providing a fresh approach to your organization’s strategic planning, the Insight Learning Framework helps you use evaluation findings to inform both current work and future strategy selection and goal setting.
Insight Learning Framework Components
Develop a Theory of Change
A theory of change is a visual description of the relationship between your organization’s strategies and the changes you are trying to achieve. The purpose of a theory of change is to help you clarify the assumptions you make about why you believe your work will lead to change. HEI offers a one-day workshop to help your organization or team develop a theory of change, with follow-up calls to refine the final product. The final version of your theory of change can be professionally designed for presentation to key stakeholders.
Create a Plan for Learning
To be an effective evaluation tool, the theory of change has to
be converted into something you can measure. An evaluation and strategic learning plan identifies the key outcomes you want to measure, operationalizes those outcomes, indicates sources of data, and sets up an annual evaluation and learning calendar. HEI can work with you to develop an evaluation and strategic learning plan for your organization, department, or project team. These plans include specific metrics for periodic measurement of outcomes and impact as well as strategies for using the evaluation data internally for decision-making and planning.
Collect and Analyze Data
The data used to measure change can be quantitative or qualitative. It can come from information your organization already collects or from special efforts to learn something new about your work. The key is having a plan that tells you what data to collect, when to collect it, and who is responsible for making that happen. HEI can help your organization develop internal capacity for data collection and analysis, and we can connect you to resources for externally gathering information and supporting your data needs.
Debrief with Stakeholders
For evaluation to be meaningful, it must be utilized in your organization’s decision-making. You may gather data assuming that it will be used, but if learning from and reflecting on that data is not built into the annual calendar, it may wind up being ignored. HEI can facilitate strategic learning debriefs in which your team and other stakeholders review evaluation data to understand what lessons can be learned. These sessions also offer an opportunity to revisit the theory of change and evaluation plan to ensure that both still reflect your organization’s strategies and learning needs.
Learning from evaluation helps you take informed action to improve strategies, increase efficiency, and address challenges. It may also help you see gaps in your theory of change or your evaluation and strategic learning plan that you can address before starting the next evaluation cycle. HEI can support you as you move into each new round of planning for evaluation and strategic learning, from writing up evaluation findings to developing action plans for future work.