We are Nora Murphy and Keith Miller with TerraLuna Collaborative, an evaluation cooperative in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. We feel fortunate to be the evaluation partners on several large developmental evaluations.
One project we are working on seeks to support the inner wellbeing journey of seasoned social entrepreneurs. On a recent conference call, a project team member asked: “How do you know when to use the data to make a change to the program? Isn’t struggle an important part of the individual’s wellbeing journey? If we react too quickly to data and ‘fix’ everything the participant isn’t comfortable with, aren’t we minimizing their opportunities for growth?”
He’s right. I (Nora) shared my perspective that evaluation data is only one source of information that should be used when making a decision. Also important to consider is: 1) our intuition, 2) our accumulated personal and professional wisdom, and 3) the collective wisdom of the group of people seeking to use the evaluation findings.
Hot Tip: Be reflective and identify the source(s) of wisdom you are drawing on.
Reflecting on that conversation, Keith and I realized that my response was rooted in the guiding principles of a three-year partnership with the Minnesota Humanities Center, Omaha Public Schools, and The Sherwood Foundation. The guiding principles are:
- Build and strengthen relationships;
- Recognize the power of story and the danger of absence;
- Learn from and with multiple voices; and
- Amplify community solutions for change.
These principles guide how we show up as evaluators and how we do our work. Evaluation use happens when there is a foundation of trust–trust in both the results and the evaluators. We’ve learned to build trust by investing in relationships, intentionally including multiple voices, seeking absent narratives, and amplifying community ideas and solutions.
Hot Tip: Be responsive, not reactive.
Patton (2010) suggests that one role of developmental evaluators is to look for and document “forks in the road that move the program in new directions. (p. 150)” As developmental evaluators we can facilitate conversations about whether the data be used immediately because it indicates a fork in the road, or whether the data is something to be aware of and track. During these conversations we can also create space for intuition and wisdom.
Lesson Learned: These guiding principles have helped us shape our role as evaluation partners and increase evaluation use. Our partners trust us to engage them in reflective conversations about what the findings mean how they might be used.
Rad Resource: Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use, Michael Quinn Patton, Guilford (2010).
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