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

Jan/15

31

Liz Zadnik on Balancing plates: Finding a space for evaluation among everything else I have to do (A Practitioner’s Story)

Hi there, Liz Zadnik here, new(ish) member of the aea365 curating team and sometimes Saturday poster. Last year Sheila posed the question What is it that YOU would like to read about on this blog?

One of the responses resonated with me, as it represented my relationship with evaluation as a professional:

I would love to see a post, or series of posts about evaluation from the perspective of practitioners for whom their primary job is not evaluation. Perhaps tips on how to best integrate evaluation into the myriad of other, seemingly more pressing, tasks without pushing it to the back burner.

I work in the anti-sexual violence movement at a state coalition, focusing on prevention strategies, training, and making community-based rape crisis centers accessible to people with disabilities. These three areas are my priorities – there are deliverables and activities that don’t always include evaluation and assessment. Many times – given my love of evaluation – I am the sole voice at the table asking about an evaluation plan. Most of the time we can weave evaluation in from the ground floor, other times it happens a little late(r).

Hot Tip: Ask this (or a similar) question: “How will we know we’ve been successful?” This is the most effective way I have found to help get people thinking about evaluation. It has started some of the most engaging and enlightening conversations I’ve ever had, both about a project and the work of the movement.

Lesson Learned: Sometimes, evaluation takes a backseat to program implementation and grant deliverables. This can be disappointing (to say the least), but I do see a change. Funders are more frequently asking for research, “evidence,” or assessment findings, providing evaluation enthusiasts (like myself) to engage our colleagues in this work.

Lesson Learned: Practice and challenge yourself, even if no one is ever going to see it. One of the ways I “integrate evaluation into the myriad of other, seemingly more pressing, tasks” is evaluating myself and my own performance. I regularly incorporate evaluative questions into training feedback forms, look for ways to assess the effectiveness of my technical assistance provision, and record my professional progress throughout the year. I sit in on as many AEA Coffee Break webinars and other learning opportunities as I can, always practicing the skills discussed and looking for ways to apply them to my work.

I would so appreciate hearing from other practitioners (and evaluators!) about their experiences infusing evaluation into their work. I’d also be happy to answer any questions you might have or write about specific projects in the future. Let me know – the aea365 team is here to please!

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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