A few things I wish I knew about evaluation before I jumped in head first… [Guest post by Karen Anderson]

Hello! My name is Karen Anderson, CQI and Compliance Associate at Families First and American Evaluation Association Diversity Coordinator Intern. I’ve been an evaluator for 2 years and I’ve realized the evaluation journey that I set out on will need some CPR along the way!

I have a passion for evaluation, but there are a few things I wish I knew before I jumped in head first…

1. Creativity is rewarded and vital for engagement of various stakeholders. 

If your evaluation role(s) do not include working with living, breathing human beings this may not apply to you. Initially I did not think the two went together very well…

I’m Bob and my hobbies include making graphs and charts…long lonely walks on the beach, and counting sea shells with my dog, Cookie.Yippee!

Fun, right? Just do the best you can not to be that guy!

It can be something as simple as using vibrant colors and including links or embedding videos into a traditional report or presentation. Asking stakeholders to be presenters, developing a skit to tell the evaluation story, or incorporating contests and trivia. Anything to engage your stakeholders and to keep them coming back, or at least not running in the other direction

2. Purposeful engagement is expected and respected.

Know thy stakeholders. Just showing up with the numbers I’m sure works in some cases, but what you do to get those numbers can take a little extra work. Have you ever prepared to do an interview or focus group and realized shortly after beginning that the person just wasn’t feeling your approach or the questions? This is the perfect place to insert a song and dance or a comedy bit. On a serious note, this is something I learned early on from my evaluation mentor. I didn’t see the value in attending events outside of the scope of the evaluation, but the relationships built during that process were very helpful during the evaluation and helped to paint the picture vs. playing connect the dots.

3. Rewards are important, and help you to remain interested in what you’re doing.

How do you get these? They can come from colleagues or more experienced people in the field, via comments and pats on the back, but I’ve found my volunteer work and blogging to be the most rewarding part of being an evaluator. My evaluation blog, On Top Of The Box Evaluation, is even younger than my evaluation career, but it’s a nice, creative way to engage others which I find very rewarding. Yes, being an “evaluation manager,” even in a volunteer capacity has a nice ring to it, but the freedom of selecting methods, developing plans, and executing them as the expert is very empowering. Sometimes young evaluator may be apprehensive about trying new things, not wanting to rock the boat too much, but volunteering is a great way to do some trial and error, test out new skills, and to meet awesome people.

– Karen Anderson