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

TAG | creativity

Hi there!  I’m Liz Zadnik, member of the aea365 curating team and Saturday contributor.  I don’t know about you, but summer has started here on the East Coast of the United States and I could not be more excited.  I’m ready for some sun and time on the beach!

We all have our vacation rituals – we might bring books with us or some magazines to catch up on.  I personally love podcasts.  To be honest, I probably listen to podcasts more than music – I love how they teach and entertain and help me tap into my creativity.  I thought I would share some of my favorite evaluation-themed (and non-evaluation-themed) podcast episodes to really kick off the summer!

Rad Resource: TED Talks are a perennial favorite – and for good reason!  I found data journalist Mona Chalabi’s recent talk so insightful and practical.  I appreciated how she sought to make data meaningful and reflect the lives of communities – something we strive to do as we work with organizations creating change and generate accessible data visualizations that will resonate with folks.  She asks us to ask three questions – one of which is “Can I [see] myself in the data?”  She uses this question as a way to encourage folks to be mindful of axes labels and breakdowns of data points.

TED Talk Honorable Mention: Giorgia Lupi’s talk on data visualization and representation, “Because data are just a tool we use to represent reality.”

Hot Tip:  In my experience, folks often consider data as separate from them and their realities.  To help navigate this, I’ve talked about data as similar to constellations.  The stars are already there and we care connecting them to tell a story – a story that helps us make sense of our world.  

How have you personalized data so folks can relate and connect?

Image-of-night-at-dusk-with-stars-in-the-sky-and-a-silhouette-of-a-tree-in-background

Rad Resource: Another favorite podcast of mine is NPR’s Invisibilia which explores “the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.”  I’m currently saving up the most recent Season Three episodes for a work trip, but some of my favorites from earlier seasons explore different solutions to “problems” and ways we are and feel connected to one another.

What’s your favorite podcast?  Do you have a favorite episode that you go back to every now and again?

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.

My name is Girija Kaimal and I am an Assistant Professor in the Department for Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University. As an educator, evaluator, blogger and, artist, I’d like to share how my evaluation practice is informed by my artistic practice. The fields might seem unrelated but I think of art as metaphor. My colleagues and I published recently on how the arts can inform leadership practice (http://www.ijea.org/v15n4/). So then I wondered how the arts could inform evaluation as well.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Tools: Each media option comes with its unique attributes. Oil pastels offer bright colors; watercolors require an absorbent base; felt-tip markers can provide detail but aren’t really useful if you want to cover large surfaces; and; if you need to erase and refine your work, then pencil or digital media are your best choices. Each media choice comes with its own set of strengths and challenges and I have to know these attributes to use the tool effectively. Choice of evaluation tools for data collection and analysis is no different. You might be skilled in a range of methods or you might be sought out for a specific specialized skill. Either ways knowing your tools is essential for artistic and/ or evaluation practice.
  1. Caring:If my paint brushes aren’t clean, my pencils not sharpened, paper not stacked and my supplies aren’t stored safely they will not be available or effective when I decide to use them. It is no different with evaluation tools. If my work files and software are not organized and saved safely, then neither my use of time nor my work will be efficient.
  1. Practice: Can I avoid doing art for months on end and then expect to be skilled when I decide to start drawing one fine day? No, like with any other skill, ongoing practice is essential to both sustain and improve skills in both artmaking and evaluation.
  1. Sharing: Artmaking is like visual journaling for me: it helps me think through problems and express complicated emotions and ideas. Sharing my work with others helps me see things that I did not or could not see on my own. It is no different in evaluation. I make it a point to share summary findings and/ or draft reports prior to any final submissions.
  1. Discovery: Starting a new project (in art or evaluation) is full of the promise of learning and discovery. At the end there is sometimes a thrilling insight or often just an incremental discovery. Regardless, each project’s process has meaning and relevance and offers lessons to be learned.

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.

Greetings! I’m Sara Vaca, independent consultant at EvalQuality.com and Creative Advisor of this blog. As mentioned before, I consider creativity a key competence in life, and in evaluation. How so? If there is anything clear regarding evaluation it is that there are no rules. No rules. It is a totally adaptive discipline that can be taught and learned, but new situations can demand at any moment new answers. That is why creativity (plus knowledge and experience, of course) becomes handy.

In my attempt to continue fostering our creative side and exercise it in case of needs, many things can be done. In this occasion, I collected some of my favorite quotes. I hope some of them inspire you and resonate with you:

“Creativity is as important as literacy”

Ken Robinson

“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”
Pablo Picasso

“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking”
Albert Einstein

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”
Pablo Picasso, Pablo Picasso: Metamorphoses of the Human Form: Graphic Works, 1895-1972

“You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.”Vaca 6
Albert Einstein

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
Maya Angelou

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Pablo Picasso

“The thing is to become a master and in your old age to acquire the courage to do what children did when they knew nothing.”
Ernest Hemingway

“Absurdity and anti—absurdity are the two poles of creative energy.”
Karl Lagerfeld

“Thoughts are like burning stars, and ideas, they flood, they stretch the universe.”
Criss Jami, Killosophy

“When I am ….. completely myself, entirely alone… or during the night when I cannot sleep, it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how these ideas come I know not nor can I force them.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
Ken Robinson, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

“Creativity arises from our ability to see things from many different angles.”
Keri Smith, How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum

“Creativity is nothing but an intelligent imitation.”
Sandeep Kakkar

“Creativity comes from applying things you learn in other fields to the field you work in.”
Aaron Swartz

And my favorite of all times: “They didn’t know it was impossible so they did it”.(Mark Twain).

Do you have favorite quotes? Share yours: sara.vaca@evalquality.com

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.

Greetings! I’m Sara Vaca, independent consultant at EvalQuality.com 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 Sara.vaca@EvalQuality.com. 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@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Greetings! I’m Sara Vaca (@visualbrains), independent consultant at EvalQuality.com and Creative Advisor of this blog.

Evaluators are very interesting people, whose experiences are as worth exploring as the people we work with. So I had this idea: wouldn’t it be great to know the top 3 stories/moments that most influenced each evaluator?

I think it would be very inspiring… And I’m in no way the most interesting evaluator I know, but to get this started, these are my 3 most remarkable moments that influenced my career as an evaluator:

  1. When I was not yet involved in -only interested- in the professional field of Evaluation, I randomly ran into Patricia Rogers on twitter and I decided to go through the people she was following. When I finished going through the 400+ long list of organizations and people she was following, one hour later, I had lost track of time or space and I had the amazing feeling of being back from planet “Evaluation.”
  2. Later within my M.A. in evaluation, I had as assignment to read “The SAGE Handbook of Evaluation” (Shaw, Greene & Mark) where Eleanor Chelimsky recalled the 8 year process of evaluating U.S. military nuclear triad policy. Wow, I thought. If you can evaluate this, you can evaluate “anything.”
  3. Finally, last year during the European Evaluation Society (EES) conference in Dublin, I had the honor of having dinner one night with lovely Lovely Dhillon. Engaging with everybody as she usually does, we were having a great time with the kindest Irish staff. At some point, they left our table and she turned to me with excitement and said: “People are my favorite!!!” The sentence made us laugh for a while…, but again, wow, I thought: if that is not evaluation, what is?

And I think these would be my three most remarkable experiences.

Picture from Morguefile.com fotoactionphotography

Picture from Morguefile.com fotoactionphotography

If you liked the idea, please think of your 3 stories and you are willing to share them, please send them (sara.vaca@evalquality.com). Depending on how many people are in, we will do a thematic week with them. Or make it a regular post for some time… Or we could even gather them into an eBook and share it. Looking forward to hearing from you!

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.

Jan/15

24

Sara Vaca on Creativity and Evaluation Part I

“Creativity is intelligence having fun”, Albert Einstein.

Greetings! I’m Sara Vaca, independent consultant (EvalQuality.com) and recently appointed Creative Advisor of this blog. To start contributing I thought of writing some posts about how creativity intertwines with evaluation. This is Part I of a two-part post.

Lesson Learned: Evaluation is a rigorous, systematic transdiscipline. However, evaluators can (and already) use creativity to improve their practice in many different moments and levels.

Here are many examples, just digging in our aea365’s archives:

Hot Tips:

1. Advocating for evaluation

Evaluation is not as well-known as it should be for many citizens and politicians. Many of us find ourselves exploring ways to make evaluation more attractive, interesting and remarkable, at least at our local environment. Examples:

Kylie Hutchinson on “O Collective Impact,” an Evaluator’s Carol

Michael Quinn Patton on Using Children’s Stories to Open up Evaluation Dialogues

2. Making stakeholders engage

A demonstrated key factor in an evaluation, our fellows have already encountered this potential problem and shared tips to overcome it:

Alicia McCoy on Using Humor and Creativity to Engage Staff in Evaluation

Marybeth Neal on Using a Wall to Engage Stakeholders

Julie Poncelet, Catherine Borgman-Arboleda, and Jorge Arboleda on Using Participatory Video to Engage Youth in Evaluation in a Creative and Empowering Way

Jeanne Hubelbank on Assessing Audience or Client Knowledge in a Sweet Way

Jessica Foster on Maximizing Survey Response Rates

3. New ways of using data

Evaluation has always relied on data, but other sectors are catching up. Now evaluators have realized that and we are learning new ways in dealing with and using data:

Kimberly Kay Lopez on Getting Creative With the Data You Collect and Use for Evaluations!

Patti Patrizi on Using Existing Data in New Ways

Laura Pryor and Nichole Stewart on Data Science for Evaluators

Cameron Norman on The Evaluator-as-Designer

 

We would love to hear how YOU are using creativity in your evaluation work.

Please consider contributing your own aea365 post! (sara.vaca@EvalQuality.com)

Look for Part II with more examples of aea365 posts on creativity and evaluation! And even more about creativity and evaluation coming your way soon!

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.

Hi, I’m Dominica McBride, CEO of Become, Inc. and a member of the AEA Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation Dissemination Working Group. The working group is charged with spreading the word about the statement and helping evaluators integrate the information from the statement into practice, teaching, policy, etc. At this year’s conference, we facilitated and attended several sessions on cultural competence. This week, a few of us are sharing our lessons learned from these sessions.

I’d like to provide an overarching perspective on the sessions and share some cross-cutting lessons from them. In attending these and other sessions this year, I noticed a couple exciting trends around evaluation and cultural competence:

It seems the importance of cultural competence is “catching fire” (just thought I’d throw that in for the Hunger Games fans). More people are recognizing the significance of this way of thinking and set of skills in evaluation, as I hear it come up more in discourse outside of groups like ours (who have an explicit focus on cultural competence). I also serve as Program Co-Chair of the Multiethnic Issues in Evaluation TIG. Last year, we had one co-sponsored session. This year, we had four co-sponsored sessions with two TIGs approaching us for co-sponsorship.  This could be an indicator that there is more recognition of the opportunities for cultural competence in a variety of topic areas in evaluation (and possibly movement towards more collaboration).

Lessons Learned: Collaborate! In collaborating with different TIGs, be it in co-sponsoring sessions or enjoying receptions, I was reminded of the power and potential of the collective. This is also a part of cultural competence that came up in some sessions – seeing the points of possible convergence and striving for inclusion.

Opportunities abound for cultural competence. Culture is everywhere and so are opportunities to manifest cultural competence. Existing methods and orientations of evaluation practice provide ample opportunity for examining and integrating culture.

Think creatively. An aspect of cultural competence I perceived as a subtle theme across some of the sessions was creative thinking. In measuring, examining, understanding, and integrating culture, thinking “outside the box,” trying new and different techniques, and using the right hemisphere of the brain can add to the process and deepen the learning.

Hot Tip: Give yourself an assignment of looking for 3 opportunities throughout each day of a week to practice cultural competence.

Rad Resources: Michael Michalko is a creativity expert. Check out his blog post on creative thinking – While you’re at it, browse this site for ways that various disciplines are showing off their creativity.

This week, we’re diving into issues of Cultural Competence in Evaluation with AEA’s Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation Dissemination Working Group. 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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I’m Kathleen Tinworth and I co-chair the recently re-named Arts, Culture, and Audiences TIG of AEA with Don Glass, who began this week’s AEA365 series. I lead the Audience Insights department at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and also consult via my alter ego, ExposeYourMuseum.

Lessons Learned

  • Don started this week with a truism about evaluation in arts and cultural settings: “outcomes and outputs…are sometimes inventive, innovative, and unpredictable.”
  • Jessica Sickler provided a great anecdote of exactly that, writing about interviewing while a child tied a stuffed snake around her legs!
  • The work lends itself to creative tools, instruments, and measures—for example, the timing and tracking method outlined in Amy Grack-Nelson’s post.
  •  That said, there are often real challenges associated with defining audience outcomes, gathering data in ever-moving, highly social environments, and promoting the value of evaluation to arts and culture organizations and stakeholders, as Joe Heimlich underscored.
  • “Performing arts organizations,” Jennifer Novak-Leonard reminded us “are in the business of transforming individuals through arts experiences, but evaluation is rarely on their radars and box office receipts and the number of ‘butts in seats’ are used as proxies of how their art impacts and transforms individual people.”

To combat the challenges above you might assume that arts, culture, and audience evaluators have mastered creativity and innovation when it comes to reporting, presenting, and dissemination– ensuring our communication is as vivid and inspiring as the environments in which we work. Here’s a secret: we haven’t. (Just asked Stephanie Evergreen, who critiqued more museum evaluations than any person should ever have to for her PhD dissertation.) As an evaluator in this sector, and as an AEA TIG co-chair and board member of the Visitor Studies Association, prioritizing good, clean, accessible evaluation communication tops my “OMG that’s gotta change NOW” list.

Rad Resources

Thanks for joining us this week and come visit ACA sometime soon.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Arts, Culture, and Audiences (ACA) TIG Week. The contributions all week come from ACA members. 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 evaluator.

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