Contribution, Leadership, and Renewal: What we focus on becomes our reality by Melissa Chapman Haynes Part I

My name is Melissa Chapman Haynes, Director of Evaluation at Professional Data Analysts in Minneapolis. In reflecting on paths to the future of evaluation, and in the humble company of some inspiring Minnesota-based evaluators, I wanted to start this week by asking them to reflect and to respond to the following prompt:

If you could carry one lesson from the past to inform how the practice of evaluation moves forward, what would that be and why?

Inspiration for this prompt comes from current AEA president Tessie Tzavaras Catsambas who has invited evaluators around the world to engage in an appreciative inquiry process to reflect on paths to the future of our profession. What contributions should we carry into the future? How can evaluators speak to and center relevant issues? How might we renew our field?

Whether or not you are attending Evaluation 2019, virtually or in person, I invite you to engage in meaningful conversations around these questions. Where we put our focus will become our reality – so let’s be intentional about it.

From the Appreciative Inquiry approach, “people have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward parts of the past (the known).”

Here are three reflections from evaluators with decades of experience:

We all do better when we all do better.

As the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone would say, “We all do better when we all do better.” Evaluation practice is strong because of decades of dialogue and collaboration among evaluators. Moving forward let’s continue to warmly welcome a diversity of new practitioners into the field. Their perspectives will move the field forward, and the mentorship of experienced evaluators will help them learn and grow. Together we’ll all do better and our efforts will make the world a better place.
— Lija Greenseid, Greenseid Consulting Group, St. Paul, MN

Stakeholder perceptions of evaluators matter.

Honestly, my biggest take-away is that my stakeholders have stereotypes about evaluation and evaluators, and not always good ones! It’s my job to anticipate those stereotypes, listen to stakeholders about them, and try to understand them before the project really gets underway.
— John LaVelle, Evaluation Studies, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Don’t lose the nuance in evaluation reporting.

Something from the past that I hope will continue to inform evaluation in the future is the lengthy, detailed evaluation report. For all the strides made toward more digestible and appealing ways of sharing results, I hope we retain the attention to detail, rigor, and nuance those types of reports lend themselves to. Even if an infographic version of results is far more widely shared, the exercise of full and detailed reporting helps ensure any data viz gets it right.
— Caryn Mohr, University of Minnesota Extension

Keep the conversation going – what lesson from the past would you move into the future? I encourage you to reflect on these questions and share in the comments section, on social media, on EvalTalk, or within your own networks. And stay turned as we explore contribution, leadership, and renewal of our field this week.

Rad Resource: Reframing Evaluation through Appreciative Inquiry

Rad Resource: John LaVelle has a practice note related to his contribution, which is forthcoming.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Contribution, Leadership, and Renewal Week where a group of Minnesota-based evaluators reflect on the theme of Evaluation 2019, to be held in Minneapolis, MN. 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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