AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Feb/12

13

Bloggers Series: Charles Gasper on The Evaluation Evangelist

My name is Charles Gasper and I am the Director of Evaluation for the Missouri Foundation for Health.  I also Blog under the name of The Evaluation Evangelist and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.  Below, you will find some painful lessons and hopefully useful resources.

Rad Resource – The Evaluation Evangelist: My blog targets individuals new to evaluation.  It is intended to urge individuals to evaluate, but to do so in a manner that reflects their needs.  For example, in my January posting, I discuss my thoughts around reasons to evaluate, or not.  As mentioned above, I also microblog through Twitter (@karcsig).  Here, my target audience is more varied, ranging from professional evaluators to the amateur.  Again, the focus is to provoke thought and dialogue to improve the engagement in and use of evaluation.

Hot Tips – favorite posts:

Lessons Learned – why I blog: Blogging is a way to get information out to a broad audience in a highly accessible manner.  I use it to share my ideas (or those of others that I find interesting) with those I wish to influence – namely the evaluation community and those they support.

Lessons Learned: There are a few interesting things I have learned and/or considered along the way:

  • The experience of writing a blog is a hybrid between submission for publication and writing in your diary.  What you write is accessible to anyone with internet access.  It is easy to fall into the trap of writing things that aren’t for public consumption and conversely, it is easy to be so careful in your writing, that you publish little to nothing.
  • Be clear as to who you represent when you blog.  I’m a Director of Evaluation for a good-sized foundation.  However, I am clear that what I write is not the official opinion of my employer, but rather “musings” of a professional evaluator.
  • Writing a good blog is work and you need to have topics to sustain your blog.  Pacing is key.
  • Have an audience that you wish to write to, when writing a blog.
  • Direct people to your blog as you update it, so they know you have something new to say.

This winter, we’re running a series highlighting evaluators who blog. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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5 comments

  • Susan Kistler · February 15, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks Charles! In terms of scheduling, I believe it may be a matter of being attuned to one’s personal work style. I know that if I didn’t set for myself the obligation to post every Saturday, it would fall by the wayside. I’m better with a concrete looming deadline (although I’ll admit that some weeks go better than others). Because my aea365 content spans across the breadth of the field and association initiatives, I can also queue up posts in advance when I’ve had inspiration, and buy a few weeks of free time. I also maintain a list of ideas and flesh those out over time, which has helped immensely.

    Reply

  • josh joseph · February 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Charles – Enjoyed your post and some of your sample blogs. Also appreciated your insights about finding the topics to sustain the effort and needed to pace yourself.

    Just a couple of quick questions. Am curious how often do you typically blog and whether you’ve experimented with blogging more or less frequently. And along the same lines, wondered if you look to build larger connections between your blogs or rather plan them mainly to work as stand-alones?

    Cheers, Josh

    Cheers, Josh

    Reply

    • Charles Gasper · February 14, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      Hi Josh,

      In the past I’ve not set a schedule for Blogging and have found that while “freeing” to get ideas out there – it isn’t conducive for attracting a consistent readership. I attempted to write once every 2 weeks for a period of time, but found myself falling behind due to other foci. I would suggest others consider their life schedules and when they might be able to reasonably set aside time for Blogging.

      As for working in larger connections – I’ll admit to being a bit of a salesman. My efforts are intended to provoke thoughts around evaluation – to encourage people to consider evaluating their programs or organizations, but to do so in a thoughtful manner. Otherwise, I’ve yet to try to pull things into a more cohesive theme. Although – now you have me thinking!

      Thank you for your comments and thoughts!

      Best,

      Charles

      Reply

  • Susan Eliot · February 14, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Hi Charles,

    As a fellow blogger I find your Lessons Learned spot on and love the catchy titles of your posts. I checked out “You Give Evaluation a Bad Name.” You’re a master at the metaphor. Any hints? I liked to use more metaphor in my writing.

    Reply

    • Charles Gasper · February 14, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      Hi Susan,

      I spend a good amount of my day explaining evaluation or methods to people. Programs and organizations are complex enough with the associated emotions that tend to accompany evaluations – so I learned early to switch people’s focus initially away from what we will be evaluating and focus on something else that is of interest, but unimportant and without an emotional investment. The best advice I can give about the use of metaphors is to consider the group you are communicating to, what knowledge/experience they have, and what might resonate for them. So, in the case of the use of the various songs for the structure of my blog – I’m making a huge assumption that either people clicked the links to the songs and actually sat and listened to them, or that they had similar experiences with music. If you can’t find that common link or forge it – then the metaphor fails and the next thing you know, you are looking at a sea of confused faces. The best way to highlight this is through a metaphor failure I had in a presentation I gave here in the Midwest of the United States…

      I was explaining the role of an evaluator in an organization and I likened the role to that of a tactician on a sailing team. [Have I lost you yet?] I had a picture of a boat and highlighted the individual and began to tell more about their role on the racing team (here is a great link explaining the position – http://tinyurl.com/74sgd8g). Well, I lost the group with the picture and the concept of racing sailboats. The position shares many of the responsibilities of an evaluator and if speaking with people with a passing familiarity with sailing and racing, it resonates very well. However…

      So, I’ve taken a long way of suggesting that the best metaphor is one that is going to make sense to the group and provides the framework within which you can speak. When explaining to my daughter’s classmates in preschool, I don’t talk about going to meetings, I talk about going to circle time – it is their framework.

      I hope this helps!

      Best,

      Charles

      Reply

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