IE TIG Week: Alicia McCoy on Using Humor and Creativity to Engage Staff in Evaluation

My name is Alicia McCoy and I am the Research and Evaluation Manager at Family Life. Family Life is an independent community organization that provides services to families, children and young people in Melbourne, Australia.

Engaging staff around evaluation can be challenging at the best of times, especially for internal evaluators who need to facilitate interest and motivation long-term. Over the years I have found that a little bit of humor and creativity goes a long way.

Hot Tip: For the most part, don’t take internal evaluation too seriously. The use of humor breaks down barriers between practice and evaluation. Using funny videos, cartoons and anecdotes during presentations is an effective way of getting your evaluation message across and assisting staff to understand and reflect on evaluation in a way that might not have been possible otherwise.

Hot Tip: Disrupt expectations about evaluation being “boring.” Hold fun activities to help build an evaluation culture. For example, we recently held a competition where teams were invited to write a story or statement about how they have used evaluation or evaluative thinking in practice. The initial promotion of the competition was a cryptic poster that appeared around offices stating “Does your Team like a challenge?” This was followed by a fun, anonymous, and slightly ambiguous poem that fuelled the discussion about what was to come. The full details of the competition were finally advertised a few weeks later. There were prizes for the most creative entry, the most informative, and a peer-awarded prize for most popular. It worked because it broke the pattern people expected from evaluation.

Hot Tip: First impressions are everything when it comes to communicating about evaluation internally. Using creative titles and introductions in communication messages about evaluation provide an oft-needed “hook”. Recent online communications we used that got staff talking include: The blind men and the elephant: a story told to an Australian, by and Indian-born Englishman, in South Africa, and what it might mean for us at Family Life (a parable was used to promote upcoming internal program planning and evaluation training); How can we learn from road intersections (an analogy of a poorly designed traffic light system was used to encourage staff to reflect on double-loop learning); Feedback: Balinese style! (a personal experience of being asked for customer feedback in Bali was shared to encourage staff to think about how they introduce feedback questionnaires to their clients). These communications appealed to people’s curiosity and they wanted to read on to find out what the message was about.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Internal Evaluation (IE) Topical Interest Group Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IE 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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