Evaluation 2016: Evaluation + Design

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Designing Independent Consulting Cooperatives

Session Number: 1216
Track: Independent Consulting
Session Type: Roundtable
Tags: advocacy, independent consulting
Session Chair: Rhonda Schlangen [Independent Consultant - Rhonda Schlangen Consulting, LLC]
Discussant: Gabrielle Watson [Independent Consultant - Oxfam America]
Presenter 1: Rhonda Schlangen [Independent Consultant - Rhonda Schlangen Consulting, LLC]
Presenter 2: Gabrielle Watson [Independent Consultant - Oxfam America]
Session Facilitator: Rhonda Schlangen [Independent Consultant - Rhonda Schlangen Consulting, LLC]
Time: Oct 29, 2016 (10:45 AM - 11:30 AM)
Room: L406

Abstract 1 Title: Consulting cooperative design: The Advocacy Hub example
Presentation Abstract 1:

The Advocacy Hub is a consulting cooperative initiated in 2010 by a small group of independent consultants working on advocacy strategy and evaluation. The three founding members came together informally. After agreeing on a vision for a different kind of collaborative, with a flat governance hierarchy and intentionally small membership, they expanded to reach the current ten-member group. Members are formally invited to join, and in turn commit to participation and adhere to a set of light-touch protocols when pitching for consulting contracts.

The Advocacy Hub is about sharing strategic learning and generating ideas among its members but also with the evaluation sector more broadly. To that end, members offer critical analysis of accepted ways of operating (for example, around approaches in advocacy strategy development and evaluation) based on our understanding and experience.

Abstract 2 Title: The Advocacy Hub experience
Presentation Abstract 2:

The Advocacy Hub has enabled me to link with peers who share a focus on policy advocacy as well as a practitioner-oriented bias, a skepticism of linear causal models and a desire to contribute to deeper, more effective social change processes.

The Advocacy Hub’s benefits include a shared body of work and collective reputation, a breadth of experience with a wide array of small and large NGOs globally, a mix of specialized skills – survey, focus groups, strategy development, training – and a platform to jointly develop and test approaches within the emergent field of policy advocacy evaluation.

Mechanisms that help us tap into these benefits are
• Regular calls to discuss group work
• List-serve for updates, flagging RFPs, sharing resources on the fly
• Shared files on approaches, past projects, member skill matrix, etc.
• A shared web site
• Joint writing and reflection projects that help us hone our thinking and practice

Audience Level: All Audiences

Session Abstract: 

Independent evaluation consultants have myriad possibilities for structuring business relationships. This session discusses consulting cooperatives as a design option that enables consultants to team on evaluations and support professional development. Can such cooperatives provide a flexible yet structured platform to build business opportunities and enhance professional development? 


The session will start with an illustrative example of the Advocacy Hub, a small, mulit-national consulting cooperative. Session participants will be invited to share their experiences designing other types of consulting cooperatives, and discuss insights in terms of

  • Membership size and diversity
  • Formality/informality of governance
  • Commonly shared basics (philosophy, themes, approaches, methodologies, digital presence, brand, etc.) and how cohesion is built
  • Technologies that facilitate long-distance collaboration
  • Links between the design of a consulting cooperative and the quality of evaluation services


The roundtable discussion will generate a taxonomy of various work structures, their pros/cons, and ideas for adapting and strengthening existing models.

For questions or concerns about your event registration, please contact registration@eval.org or 202-367-1173.

For questions about your account, membership status, or help logging in, please contact info@eval.org.

Cancellation Policy: Refunds less a $50 fee will be granted for requests received in writing prior to 11:59 PM EDT October 3, 2016. Email cancellation requests to registration@eval.org. Fax request to (202) 367-2173. All refunds are processed after the meeting. After October 3, 2016 all sales are final.