Since 2009, I have been working on non-profit evaluations in the local Boston area. My work is deeply collaborative, partnering with community organizations to better understand processes and impacts of educational interventions on children and families.
The Northeastern Public Evaluation Lab (NU-PEL) expands my capacity to meet the evaluation needs of local non-profits. Through consultation expertise, methodological workshops, direct student supervision and software training, NU-PEL supports interdisciplinary evaluation teams that work directly with community partners as they seek to better understand their program’s impact. Beyond practical and logistical support, NU-PEL provides a home base for evaluation work at Northeastern.
This evaluation hub connects undergraduate and graduate students with faculty and staff who are deeply passionate about campus-community collaborations.
As a small and resource constrained organization, finding the capacity to build evaluation infrastructure that helps us learn rather than comply, assists us in being effective, and ultimately demonstrates our impact is a constant challenge. NU-PEL was instrumental in our path to build the organizational infrastructure and capacity we needed to engage in sustainable and meaningful program evaluation moving forward. Our area of work is at the intersection of gender and racial equity.
As the Director of Research and Evaluation questions that I often get are: How do you define gender and/or racial equity? How to you measure that? How do you know you are making progress? NU-PEL took on the challenge and searched the literature for valid, reliable and replicate ways to assess the impacts of one of our programs. When needed, they also drew from other Northeastern experts to inform their work.
One of the most helpful things we found was that NU-PEL did not ask us to fit into any particular research agenda, rather, NU-PEL allow us to establish our needs and collaboratively we came up with a scope that made sense given time required and resources required. Moreover, NU-PEL was flexible and willing to tackle a project that was about capacity building rather than a one-time evaluation. Philanthropic funding and resources for capacity building and organizational learning are often scarce. We are now focused on building the technological tools to operationalize the evaluation strategy NU-PEL came up and are confident that we can further build on top of the NU-PEL assistance. There is no way we will be this far without NU-PEL’s assistance.
We were able to have an evaluation strategy, create tools and start data collection in less than one year, just around the time we advanced new strategic partnerships and key data collection opportunities arose as a result. Stakeholders and partners are actively using our evaluation and data work.
We look forward to building on NU-PEL’s work and using our evaluation capacity to strengthen our own work, leverage our programmatic strengths with our evaluation work to serve as thought leaders with the goal of continuing to deliver on our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.