IC TIG Week: Creativity is Essential to Evaluation Practice—and For a Just and Equitable World by Nora Murphy Johnson, A. Rafael Johnson, and Molly O’Connor

We are Nora Murphy Johnson, A. Rafael Johnson, and Molly O’Connor, writing about creativity and why we at Inspire to Change treat creativity as absolutely critical to evaluation practice.

Michael Quinn Patton wrote Creative Evaluation in 1981. His words ring true today, more than forty years later:

“Creativity is essential to situational responsiveness. If one is being genuinely active, reactive, and adaptive in responding to the special and unique people, circumstances, and factors in any particular evaluation, one cannot simply borrow an old design and make it fit this unique, new situation. Each evaluation situation becomes unique, and leads to a unique evaluation creation.”

Hot Tips

What can you do to increase your capacity for creativity and facilitating creative evaluations? Here are five hot tips:

  1. Believe in and nurture your own creative capacity. Many people tell us, “I’m not an artist,” or “I’m turned off by your use of the word creative.” But we can learn to see, value, and expand our creative potential, even when it is uncomfortable.
  2. Believe in and nurture the creative capacity of others. Similarly, we need to believe in the value of the creative potential in others. We also need to believe that creativity is appropriate and essential in “professional” settings, even when we receive pushback against this belief. 
  3. Keep creatively pushing the limits of our profession. We need to expand our idea of what counts as high-quality, relevant evaluation as we strive to make our profession relevant to the work of global transformations.
  4. Center creativity as essential to your wellbeing. While Western Culture often focuses on the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical aspects of wellbeing, we believe that creativity is also vital to wellbeing. Creativity allows us to access a flow state that is otherwise unavailable to us.
  5. Center creativity as essential to the wellbeing of humankind. What is good for the health of the individual is good for the health of humankind and all living things. As was found in the Wellbeing Project’s 2020 report titled, Wellbeing Inspires Welldoing: How changemakers’ inner wellbeing influences their work. You can read more about this research here.

Rad Resources

  • Read the full blog post here with ten tips and quotes from creatives across decades and across the globe.
  • To learn more about infusing arts and creativity into an evaluation framework, check out the book Creative Evaluation & Engagement, Vol 1: Essentials.
  • If you’re interested in continuing this conversation, consider joining a Mighty Networks community committed to working at the nexus of justice, creativity, and changemaking. This community is hosted by the Inspire to Change team.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG members. 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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