Sara Vaca on Fostering Creativity in Evaluation

Greetings! I’m Sara Vaca, independent consultant at and Creative Advisor of this blog. Creativity is another powerful tool evaluators can potentially use at certain points of the evaluation process to improve engagement or to solve eventual dead-ends or conflicts. So I have started posting about this subject and today I’m going to share my ideas about how to foster creativity.

Let’s run this little improvised test (that is almost a rubric!):

Do you consider yourself a creative person?

a. No, I’m a serious evaluator/researcher and creativity has nothing to do with my job.

b. Not really, I try to be creative, but nothing “happens.”

c. It is not my major virtue but I have some creativity moments here and there.

d. Yes! I’m always overflowing with new ideas of how to do things.

Ok, if you answer is (d), don’t read on. You don’t need any tips for further developing your creativity.

If your answer was (c), your creativity is already released, but you could encourage it to make an appearance more often.

In that case, or if you don’t consider yourself as a creative person (b) but you would like to be one, here are some ideas:

  • Let your mind fly free. Don’t censor any crazy thought that may come out, no matter how “crazy”, “undoable”, or “impossible” it may seem. In fact, at the beginning, you should “force” yourself to go wild and think of the most absurd, bizarre things to set your creativity free.
  • Use often the questions “Why not?” And “What if?” as a way to challenge what you know, or what happens, or what you think you know or why it happens. Always within rational limits (until you go too far and you result annoying), challenge everything.
  • Get inspired by others: check for related stuff that can be inspirational. Of course the internet is a great place for researching.
  • Talk to others: discussing things out loud and hearing others’ points of view often helps you get out of the blockage.
  • Find something repetitive to do where you meditate upon everything, and do it periodically (daily if possible). Observe where you are and what you are doing when you have an idea. Often they are daily routines like walking, showering, driving or the like.

Finally, if your answer was (a), you may be perfectly right, but there are times when being creative at some moments may mean doing work that is more enjoyable and fun, in case that’s something appealing for you.

Other tips to be creative? Want to share the places or moments where you often come up with new ideas? Please comment or share Remember: the crazier, the better!

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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

3 thoughts on “Sara Vaca on Fostering Creativity in Evaluation”

  1. Pingback: Sara Vaca on My favorite quotes about creativity · AEA365

  2. I also think it helps to read outside your field … I wrote an aea365 post on this a few years ago. It allows you to look for unexpected connections and explore ideas that come from elsewhere.

    1. Hi Sara and Dawn,

      @Sara thanks for posting this. I fully agree with you on letting your mind be free. In a product development cycle, evaluation is the last thing in the cycle, but it’s starting point relates to designing or coming up with an idea and then developing it. I feel that what’s often amiss in Evaluation is that we as evaluators do not always understand the creative process that went into programme design and that we sometimes measure things with a frame of reference that is prescribed (which for works most of the time) however, it also negates the organic nature of a programme’s life cycle and maturity. Often I find myself joking with colleagues about how what we would do if we were do design a programme, and through doing this, quite often we come up with nuggets that are plausible in relation to an idea for programme delivery.

      I am someone who enjoys art and pottery to relax. I found myself using Evaluation in my artwork, and in some instances the creative process inspired me to think differently about Evaluation, and in others, Evaluation inspired the creative process. Sometimes evaluative thinking can be limiting in that it stifles the creative process before it has taken flight.

      @Dawn, I agree with you: reading across disciplines help. For me, even though I have been working as an internal evaluator, I have often had to use methods relating to HR, Organisational Development, Business Analysis, IT, Marketing and Entrepreneurship to understand M&E from a different point of view. There are many cross linkages that may work well with M&E.

      Keen to hear your thoughts.


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