Hi y’all, Daphne Brydon here. I am a clinical social worker and independent evaluator. In social work, we know that a positive relationship built between the therapist and client is more important than professional training in laying the foundation for change at an individual level. I believe positive engagement is key in effective evaluation as well as evaluation is designed to facilitate change at the systems level. When we engage our clients in the development of an evaluation plan, we are setting the stage for change…and change can be hard.
The success of an evaluation plan and a client’s capacity to utilize information gained through the evaluation depends a great deal on the evaluator’s ability to meet the client where they are and really understand the client’s needs – as they report them. This work can be tough because our clients are diverse, their needs are not uniform, and they present with a wide range of readiness. So how do we, as evaluators, even begin to meet each member of a client system where they are? How do we roll with client resistance, their questions, and their needs? How do we empower clients to get curious about the work they do and get excited about the potential for learning how to do it better?
Hot Tip #1: Engage your clients according to their Stage of Change (see chart below).
I borrow this model most notable in substance abuse recovery to frame this because in all seriousness, it fits. Engagement is not a linear, one-size-fits-all, or step-by-step process. Effective evaluation practice demands we remain flexible amidst the dynamism and complexity our clients bring to the table. Understanding our clients’ readiness for change and tailoring our evaluation accordingly is essential to the development of an effective plan.
Stages of Change for Evaluation
Hot Tip #2: Don’t be a bossypants.
We are experts in evaluation but our clients are the experts in the work they do. Taking a non-expert stance requires a shift in our practice toward asking the “right questions.” Our own agenda, questions, and solutions need to be secondary to helping clients define their own questions, propose their own solutions, and build their capacity for change. Because in the end, our clients are the ones who have to do the hard work of change.
Hot Tip #3: Come to my session at AEA 2015.
This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to learn more from Daphne? She’ll be presenting as part of the Evaluation 2015 Conference Program, November 9-14 in Chicago, Illinois.