IC TIG Week: Why So Serious? Using Creative Humor to Facilitate Engagement and Skill Development in Evaluation by Emma Duer

I used to work in a pet store, but people were always asking how big I’d get (apologies to Rodney Dangerfield). Jokes aside for a moment, I am Emma Duer, Vice President of Program Evaluation at Dainis & Company, Inc. As a small independent firm, we often use our flexibility to bring maximum creativity and humor to our work with evaluation clients.

Program staff in need of an external evaluator or training to conduct internal monitoring and assessment often arrive at their first meeting with us carrying cultural, logistic, or psychological barriers to engaging with and learning about program evaluation. Common negative perceptions about program evaluation include that it is hard to understand, time-consuming, a distraction from other program activities, and only serves to point out what they are doing wrong (as described recently by a colleague in response to this topic on my LinkedIn page).

We have found that in many cases, a little humor goes a long way in bringing our clients into the fold and taking a long cool drink of the evaluation Kool-Aid. Not only does humor give you an opportunity to have fun and be creative when planning training and resources for evaluation clients, it also helps build rapport with new clients and increases buy-in and engagement in monitoring and assessment activities. Humor also facilitates learning and increases knowledge retention when used in education.

Cool Tricks

Our firm’s role as external evaluator with the SexEdVA Disability-inclusive Sexual Health Network is unique in that a large part of our role is not just to evaluate the Network, but also provide training and technical assistance to increase the capacity and skills of partnering community-based organizations as they test and evaluate innovative interventions.

In addition to providing one-on-one assistance, we hold frequent training courses and create resource documents tailored to the needs of the Network. To make these fun and accessible to partners, we utilize memes, comics, and examples from silly hypothetical programs to introduce topics like logic models, data collection, ethics review, and writing evaluation questions. Be creative and enjoy the process of getting weird with your training examples!

I have used pretend programs like the YODA Education Program (Youth Overcoming the Dark Side Appeal) and the Everyone Loves elVES (E.L.V.E.S.) Support Group with clients and frequently receive positive feedback on how helpful these fun examples are for encouraging trainees to step outside their discomfort zone to grasp concepts such as theories of change, or the difference between objectives, outputs, and outcomes.

Rad Resources

You can find some sample training slides utilizing the above pretend program evaluation scenarios here and insert your favorite memes and cartoons. You may be surprised what you can find publicly available by conducting a Google Image search with the terms “comic,” “meme,” or “cartoon,” and some training topic keywords.

In 2014 IE TIG member Alicia McCoy authored an article for AEA365 sharing her perspective as an Internal Evaluator on the topic of Using Humor and Creativity to Engage Staff in Evaluation.


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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