Dawn Hanson Smart on Reading Outside Your Field

Hi, I’m Dawn Hanson Smart, Senior Associate at Clegg & Associates, Inc. in Seattle, a consulting firm focused on planning and evaluation with nonprofits, state and local governments, tribal organizations, and foundations. I’ve been an evaluator for more than 25 years, with an eclectic mix of clients and projects. I think it is this diversity of fields and topics that keeps me interested and excited about my work. It also leads me to explore a wide range of reading material. I recently finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, the story of the woman whose cells became the first to be grown in a laboratory and the many related stories of how it came about and the impact on her family and on research science.

Lesson Learned: Beyond the admiration we may feel for their work, these kinds of authors can stimulate our thinking, bringing new perspectives to the way we approach our own. Rebecca Skloot’s persistence over more than ten years to gather the data she needed, her diligence in the face of barriers, and her unfailing respect and caring for the people she worked with inspired me. The book made me think about how I might adjust my approach to (and my attitude about) a difficult evaluation I was conducting. It also made me remember the encouragement and enlightenment provided by books in the past. So I challenge you to broaden your reading habits and explore.

Rad Resource: Great places to get book ideas and see reviews include the New York Times Sunday Book Review and the New Yorker’s, Books Briefly Noted.

Rad Resource: TED is a nonprofit “devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.” TED’s annual conference brings together speakers about science, business, the arts and global issues. Over the conference’s four days, 50 speakers each get an 18-minute time slot to share their knowledge and ideas and to inspire the audience with their creativity and passion for their work. You can see video clips of conference speakers at http://www.ted.com/ and identify individuals and topics you’d like to know more about.

Hot Tip: Book clubs are terrific places to learn about books you might not otherwise select for yourself. If you’re not a part of a club, join one. If you’re in one that’s beginning to feel stale, seek out a new one that includes nonfiction, fiction, history, biography, and poetry books. Or join a club online. The Salon Reading Club offers a stimulating community where you can get together with others and discuss books. Or, try the New Yorker’s Book Club.

So, explore — read outside your field something in an area you’ve never even considered of interest. You might be surprised!

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

1 thought on “Dawn Hanson Smart on Reading Outside Your Field”

  1. Dawn, I loved your post. So refreshing! My friends and I have long noted that reading is indeed one of the great pleasures of life…as well as writing. Thanks for The Salon Reading Club reference. I intend to look into that. I live a few miles north of you in Bellingham, Washington and have found that The The Pacific Northwest Independent Bestseller List is an excellent reference also.

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