The evaluation of the seven CoPs founded in ACT aim to assess their effectiveness as a strategy to contribute to structural change processes regarding Gender Equality (GE) and identify the added value of membership for the implementation of gender equality strategies. Moreover, the implementation of the CoPs has been evaluated to figure out what works well and what needs to be improved to increase the effectiveness of CoPs.
This blog post highlights three key elements of evaluation: sources, learning outcomes and effects, and learnings for the implementation and improvement of CoPs. For more information on the content of the evaluation, please consult the short summary report.
The evaluation is built on the following sources of evidence:
- Semi-structured online interviews with all CoPfacilitators and a selection of CoPmembers (three members per CoP(n=21))
- Interviews were conducted between the 20thof May and 7thof July 2020 and lasted between 30-90 minutes
- Selected members differed regarding organisation size, region/country, number of attended CoPmeetings
- Monitoring and progress reports written by the CoPfacilitators
- Progress reports were compiled based on the monitoring in month 24 of the ACT runtime
- Reports contain detailed information on the CoPs’objectives, composition, activities and progress so far.
- Wilder-Collaboration-Factors-Inventory Questionnaire filled out by the CoPmembers
- This standardised questionnaire assesses the “health” and development level of CoPs(Mattessichet al., 2001).
- It includes items regarding shared vision, trust and mutual respect among group members, leadership, distribution of roles, or appropriate pacing among others. The 40 items measure 20 factors of collaboration.
Learning Outcomes and Effects
- Members appreciate the exchange of experiences and brainstorming on strategies.
- Members get inspiration for their GE work or feel motivated to start change processes in their organization.
- Members gained more (content and methodological) knowledge and awareness on gender; especially gender newcomers. Also access to organisational data, new tools, literature etc.
- Members appreciate the collaborative aspect of the CoP, especially the interdisciplinary cooperation which opens new perspectives and strategies.
- A central benefit of CoPsfor members is access to new people. When trust is established, they know where to turn to for help. The CoP becomes a safe space; members feel less isolated.
- With being part of a CoP, members acquired a new voice. CoPs increase the visibility of its members, give them more weight –also due to the H2020 funding.
- Some members disseminate the experience and knowledge gained in the CoPwithin their organization and recruit colleagues to participate, form implementation teams, carry out internal projects, discuss internal activities with management, plan articles, etc.
- In some CoPs members conduct status quo assessments using the GEAM tool.
Learnings for the Implementation and Improvement of CoPs
- Establish a common goal that is clear to everyone within the CoP
- Implement a structure and working processes that were developed in a participatory way
- Involve all members equally, otherwise members that are not involved in all communication or don’t receive all information may feel disconnected
- Focus on problems, but also on solutions to unite different types and approaches of members
- Work on how to approach stakeholders within the organisation and finding allies in order to initiate Gender Equality action and build an internal network of gender agents
- Discuss a strategy of how to expand the CoP in order to meet the different needs of the members (e.g. regional focus, types of organisations) as the composition of member organisationscan affect the Cop's direction
- Deal with heterogeneity e.g. through discussing expectations, collaborative methods or working groups
- Create a common set of knowledge, which might decrease differences in expertise
- Foster integration, independent communication and community building e.g. by actively connecting members with same interests or establish an open discussion culture
- Enable informal communication in order to strengthen the cooperation and commitment of members, e.g. via informal get-togethers after CoPmeetings
- Establish an onboarding process for new members, e.g. welcome them with one-on-one meetings, set the stage for them in meetings through taking time for introductions and actively invite their perspectives, address everyone by first names or conduct interactive formats
Suggestions for how to found and fund future CoPs
- When founding a CoP, the possibility of a CoP facilitator team should be considered to cover the multitude of requested skills.
- Design of the MoU should be reconsidered: depending on the potential member organisations, it might be beneficial to design a more binding document to support members in fostering institutional change or to create a document of symbolic value to find members more easily. There seems to be no ‘one-size-fits-all’-solution.
- Technical support for CoPs should be developed earlier and in a participatory way to meet the CoP facilitators needs.
- A European facilitator group for future CoP facilitators would help to grow into the complex, demanding role of a facilitator which unites communication and leadership skills with the knowledge on gender/equal opportunities and the European research landscape.
- Representatives of the Commission should attend CoP meetings to get an impression of the work of the CoP, to learn about (un)realistic expectations and about supporting measures needed.
- CoPs should be supported on a long-term basis, if possible not on a project basis: It takes longer than 3 years to build a group identity and communication basis and to enable structural change in member organisations. Due to the project character, members get the impression that the membership is limited