Here at Illuminate Colorado, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. When you think of our work, what first comes to mind might be programs like Illuminating Child Care, or trainings like Lines in the Sand. All of our programs, trainings, coalitions, and networks provide essential support for families, organizations, and communities to prevent child maltreatment.
But, what you might not know, is that behind everything Illuminate does is a team working to collect data to learn how to enhance our functioning and increase our impact. Our Evaluation & Strategic Learning team collaborates inter-organizationally to help staff continuously improve the effectiveness of their programs. Recently, we had a chance to speak with Anna and Hayley, two of the members of the Evaluation & Strategic Learning team, about what their team is focusing on and their goals for the future!
Evaluation & Strategic Learning Manager
Hayley appreciates the culture of connection and collaboration at Illuminate, and her favorite part of working at Illuminate is being able to work directly with program teams.
Creating Systems for Understanding and Improving Organizational Impact
The purpose of the Evaluation & Strategic Learning team is to create – and monitor – systems and approaches that help Illuminate to function effectively and have the greatest impact possible.
The team works closely with staff to design and implement processes for understanding key questions related to each program or effort’s implementation and impact, such as:
- Is the program or effort being implemented with fidelity, or in adherence to the program model and foundations, to ensure its success?
- Is the program or effort reaching the populations and/or geographic areas of greatest need, and what are the barriers and facilitators to participation?
- Are there disparities in regard to who is participating in and/or impacted by the program or effort?
- Is the program addressing inequities within Colorado?
- Are program participants satisfied with the services or effort, and what improvements would better meet participant needs and preferences?
- Is the program or effort achieving its short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term goals and positively impacting the issue it aims to address?
As collaboration is key to the design and implementation of organizational data collection efforts, it is also critical to Illuminate’s learning and improvement processes. Findings are continuously reviewed by the Evaluation & Strategic Learning team, Illuminate staff, and external implementation partners to identify strength areas and opportunities for improvement and develop plans for improvement.
For example, the Evaluation & Strategic Learning team meets weekly with the Circle of Parents team to help monitor emerging program successes and needs and leverage program data to collaboratively design strategies for addressing gaps and course correcting, as needed.
Illuminate Colorado is lucky to have an internal Evaluation & Strategic Learning team because the team is able to build relationships and trust with the staff and external partners implementing programs. It also allows the team to gain an in-depth understanding of each program and initiative and remain up to date on program shifts or emergent needs. This is critical for effective collaboration, meaningful data collection and learning processes, and the ability to provide tailored, timely support.
Looking Ahead: Staff-Led Implementation and Application
Since the Evaluation & Strategic Learning team was established in 2019, the team has been focused on developing infrastructure and processes for data collection and learning, including building data collection tools and data systems. Now, the Evaluation & Strategic Learning team is shifting its focus to supporting ongoing implementation of these approaches, including supporting data monitoring, analysis, and learning efforts among staff and partners.
When we spoke with Anna and Hayley, they shared some Evaluation & Strategic Learning goals they plan to tackle in the coming years. Their goals centered around building the capacity of staff and external implementation partners to implement evaluation and improvement approaches themselves. Anna and Hayley explained that staff are experts in their program’s data, so it is much more impactful when staff also play a lead role in the review and application of that data.
The Evaluation & Strategic Learning team also plans to focus on supporting the scaling of Illuminate Colorado programs. Their role will be as thought partners leveraging data to identify areas of greatest need, ensuring fidelity to the program model while prioritizing local tailoring and adaptations, and monitoring program reach and effectiveness as a scaled program.
Expanded Evaluation Capacity: Welcome Danielle McQueen
At the end of August 2023, the Evaluation & Strategic Learning team was excited to welcome an additional team member, Danielle. She will focus on evaluating Illuminate’s education, coalition, and policy efforts.
“My favorite part of working with data is that it helps us see the bigger picture and find a path toward growth and improvement. I’m excited to learn from all of our thoughtful, passionate, and empathetic staff about their area of expertise.“
This year Illuminate has grown by leaps and bounds. Join us as we welcome our new team members and explore how they are helping us to strengthen families across the spectrum of prevention.
One of the most effective strategies for cultivating long-term wellbeing for youth is through educating both youth and the agencies who serve them on how to build positive youth development. Youth Thrive, a program developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy and offered by Illuminate, employs this strategy with amazing results…
Illuminate Colorado has been busy working with families, organizations, and communities to ensure all children grow up to be healthy and thriving. Join us as we hear from Coloradans who have been positively impacted by some of the work Illuminate is doing across the state, including YouthThrive, the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families, and Family Connects Colorado…