Bloggers Week: Chithra Adams on Evaluation and Design Thinking

Hello! My name is Chithra Adams. I work as an evaluator at the Human Development Institute, University of Kentucky. I blog about design thinking and evaluation.

Rad Resource – Evaluation and Design Thinking: The blog explores the application of design thinking principles to the practice of evaluation. Each post includes a review of design thinking and design literature and ends with a discussion of possible applications to evaluation. I usually post once every two weeks. I view the blog as a community learning space and visitors are encouraged to provide their interpretation of the concepts discussed in the posts.

Hot Tips: Favorite posts: The blog is fairly new so there only a few posts. Most of the current posts focus on understanding the definition of design thinking. Here are two posts that will give you a sense of the blog:

  • The Start of a Preoccupation: This posts talks about how I got into design thinking. It also talks about the questions I had after reading through many definitions of design thinking. The post includes some great introductory resources on design thinking.
  • Definition Deconstruction Design Sensibility Part 1 of 3: This post describes design sensibility and what it means to evaluators. The post includes an article by design consultants. It is a pretty easy read and gives a glimpse of how designers’ view problems.

Lessons Learned: Why I blog: There are a lot of web resources on design thinking. I found these resources to be quite helpful to get me excited and interested in the concept. However, they were less helpful concerning how design thinking could be used in the practice of evaluation. At a cursory glance, design thinking will appear as a strategy to make products more user-centered. As a discipline, evaluation is rich with theories and practices that encourage being user centered (utilization focused evaluation, empowerment evaluation etc.). Evaluation has a strong tradition of implementing practices and developing products that are user centered. So what does design thinking offer evaluation? Does design thinking provide any added value to evaluation? What does it look like to practice design thinking in evaluation? The blog is the record of my journey to answer these questions.

Lessons Learned: What I’ve learned: Blogging to me is like exercising! Once I get started, I have so much fun.

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.

5 thoughts on “Bloggers Week: Chithra Adams on Evaluation and Design Thinking”

  1. Hi Chitra,

    I honestly think that Design Thinking and an Agile approach to the way social interventions are implemented will be the way of the future. I think Evaluation is at a crossroads. I think that if programmes are run like businesses with a social entrepreneurship mindset, then their effectiveness should be evaluated in the same way. I think that Michael Patton’s developmental evaluation approach somehow leans towards this. But I foresee things such as big data, design thinking, agile methodology and social entrepreneurship interlinking in some or other way. I think some existing evaluation methods will be elevated, while others may be parked aside.

    What do you think?

  2. Hi Chitra,

    Thanks for this. I am glad you posted something on this.
    @ Ray, Sheila and Chitra-and all supporters of Design Thinking-great minds think alike.

    I have been wondering about what other avenues of thought can be used in evaluation to develop new thinking or social change. I came across design thinking through a Stanford Webinar. One burning question I thought of was-if I was to design my own programme how would I do it? Evaluation is often an after thought, however, if we [evaluators] were present at the early stages of designing of interventions-we could learn a lot about what the original intent was for designing them in a particular way. I almost feel as if an entrepreneurial way about thinking about interventions and their scalability is useful.

    Keen to your thoughts,

    1. Hi Asgar,

      Good point…evaluation is an after thought most of the time, isn’t it? And I wonder if design thinking can help program evaluators to be creative and perhaps allow the evaluation design to be open and flexible.

      Thank you for reading the blog. Keep the comments and observation coming!!

  3. I wanted to give you some positive feedback…then read the comments on your own blog and as usual Sheila beat me to the punch

    “I’m so glad I stumbled on this! Design thinking and evaluation are two of my favorite topics. I’m always hungry for more resources for learning and look forward to reading many more of your posts.”

    Say it for me 🙂

    Cheers Ray

    1. Hi Ray,

      Thank you for reading the blog! I don’t have any definitive answers…so look forward to readers like you to help me figure out how design thinking can inform and enhance the practice of evaluation!


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