Bloggers Week: Cameron Norman on Censemaking

I’m Cameron Norman and I am the Principal at CENSE Research + Design where I bring together systems thinking and design with evaluation to help organizations adapt and evolve in complex systems. I use my blog as a way to explore ideas and educate my students, colleagues and clients (present and future) about many of the concepts I use in my work like developmental evaluation (DE) and developmental design.

Rad Resource: Photos make a blog stand out and add to your message. The rad resource that has saved me a lot of money on stock photos is the Creative Commons search tool, which allows you to search for high-quality images, music, and video files that you can use to jazz up your blog using free materials that creators have licensed for public use. National Geographic has a wealth of resources on how to take good pictures on its website, too.

Hot tips & Favourite Posts: Biggest tip — buy a decent camera and take lots of pictures! I used to use a lot of stock photos for my blog, but this gets pricey and nothing like having your own to use to make your ideas stand out.

Favorite posts:

  • What is Developmental Evaluation? I participated on a DE working group with Michael Quinn Patton and we had to develop an elevator pitch explaining it to others; this is what I came up with;
  • The developmental design and evaluation imperative: I’ve started using the term developmental design in my work to reflect the idea that DE is only part of the equation and that program teams need to understand design principles if they are going to benefit from DE;
  • Evaluation and design for changing conditions: This was inspired by a lecture I gave where I used wood as an illustration of developmental thinking by comparing a tree to a wooden desk; same material, very different things.

Lessons learned: Blog for yourself first. I created my blog Censemaking as a vehicle for exploring ideas around complexity, design and developmental evaluation and many of the social issues that my clients are interested in, but I mostly do it for myself. Writing something down is a form of reflective practice and helps me ‘find my ground’ on complex, emerging issues.

Hot Tip: Write often. I try to blog 2-3 times a week. It takes time and is work, but it is a labour of love and writing inspires learning, humility, focus, and creativity. I work independently and blogging is a way of ‘talking to others’ when they are not in the room and a great way to clarify one’s thinking.

This winter, we’re continuing our occasional series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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.


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