Hi, this is Bill Fear, independent evaluator and freelancer. Over the years my interest in evaluation has spanned a number of disciplines and sectors. The common theme that continually emerges is one of change management and more latterly, I have narrowed this down to organizational change. This helps to focus the wide range of ideas, theories, methods and so provides a common language for senior stakeholders.
All evaluations are concerned with change, and all social interventions – at whatever level – involve some sort of organization. All organizations have some degree of ‘management’. Thus, learning the related language and assumptions about the change process and outcomes provides a means to frame any evaluation.
Hot Tip: Learn at least the basics of change management/organizational change. This will give a vocabulary and set of constructs that can be used with a wide range of international stakeholders. It also provides a frame for any evaluation.
I also find it helpful to stay in touch with the day-to-day resources that senior managers will access as these resources tend to present a credible view of social interventions. For example, searching for ‘evaluation’ on the Financial Times website returns, among others: evaluations relating to aid for Haiti, calls for cost-benefit evaluations in the NHS (UK); evaluation by the International Rescue Committee; and the setting up of an Independent Evaluation unit in the Bank of England.
Hot Tip: Regularly scan the websites of reporting magazines and Newspapers such as Forbes, The Economist, and the Financial Times.
Many disciplines contribute to, and practice, evaluation and I have also found it helpful to peruse the websites of the relevant membership organizations. Examples range from The Academy of Management through The American Psychological Association, to the American Society for Anesthesiologists.
Hot Tip: Find professional organization websites and look for ‘resources’, ‘toolkits’, ‘publications’, ‘news’, and search for ‘evaluation’ on the site.
Hot Tip: Remember, evaluation is practiced within all disciplines and all disciplines practice in the field. Don’t assume that as evaluators we can just fly in, apply a method, analyse the data, and fly out with total objectivity and impunity. We are not alone.
As I said earlier, I find it useful to frame these seemingly disparate approaches using either change management or organizational change.
Rad Resource: Burnes, B. (2014). Managing Change. Pearson Education Ltd: Edinburgh Gate; Tolbert, P. S. and Hall, R. H. (2008). Organizations: Structures, Processes and Outcomes. Pearson.
Final Hot Tip: The problem with having an open mind is that people keep on wanting to put things into it.
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