Greetings to my fellow #DataNerds! My name is Jordan Slice. I am a Research Specialist at Richland One, an urban school district in Columbia, South Carolina. In addition to being a full-time evaluator, I create handmade pieces for my Etsy shop, resliced.
As a handmade business owner, many of the sales I make are custom orders. People really appreciate when something is tailored to meet their needs. The same is true for evaluation stakeholders: your results are much more likely to be appreciated (and used!) if they answer the questions your stakeholders need to know.
Lesson Learned: Whether I’m making a custom purse (that’s one of my bags to the right) or designing a program evaluation, clear communication is key. For example, if a customer sends me her grandfather’s favorite shirt and requests that I make her a purse using the fabric, it is imperative that we come to a clear agreement about the design of the purse before I start constructing. Similarly, when evaluating a program, it is imperative that you consult with the stakeholders before developing your evaluation if you expect the results to be utilized.
Hot Tip: Keep it simple. While you and I may love geek speak, flooding your stakeholders with evaluation jargon may impair their ability to understand your results. Whether you are talking with stakeholders, constructing a presentation, or writing a report, commit to the mantra that less is more. Once I gather my summary in writing, I use a two step revision process. First, I focus on organizing the content for better flow. Second, I put on my minimalist cap and cut out all the excess fluff (usually repetitive statements or unnecessary detail). Before finalizing any report, always ask a colleague (or stakeholder when appropriate) to proof and provide feedback. I employ the same technique when I am building newsletters (Rad Resource: Mail Chimp – free & user-friendly!) or item listings on Etsy.
Another Hot Tip: Allow yourself time to focus on something creative (even just a daydream) several times a week. This can give your mind the break it needs to process information and improve your focus. Pursue a new hobby or build on an existing interest. You may be surprised at how this new skill can help you grow as an evaluator.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.