MNEA Week: Leah Goldstein Moses on Evaluative Thinking

My name is Leah Goldstein Moses. I am the founder and President of the Improve Group, a national evaluation and planning consulting firm based in the Twin Cities. I am writing to share some recent experiences in evaluation capacity building initiatives, and taken together, they suggest that evaluative thinking is emerging as one of the most critical skills for practitioner leaders.

Hot tip: Practitioners, depending on their field of practice, are using many different terms that are relevant for evaluation. These include performance management or performance-based leadership, data-driven decision-making, systems thinking, and others. Because there are so many terms used, each with their own nuances, I try to use some basic questions to get at fundamental issues and ensure I understand what my clients need:

  • When making decisions, what information do you wish you had at your fingertips?
  • How does your team tend to work with data? For example, do you review things together, or do individuals provide summaries?
  • What questions are you asked about your work that you are unable to answer comfortably?
  • What do you think you do well? How do you know? What would you like to improve? Why do you think that needs to be improved?

Rad Resources: A number of studies have focused on evaluation capacity building, and the factors that help organizations internalize evaluation and/or think evaluatively. Some also talk about the necessary preconditions for evaluative thinking. (Thanks to our fantastic intern, Thomas Walton – MPH and PhD student at the University of Minnesota – for organizing these):

Stufflebeam, D.L. (2002).  Institutionalizing Evaluation Checklist. Retrieved October 29, 2010 from

Volkov, B.B. & King, J.A. (2007).  A Checklist for Building Organizational Evaluation Capacity. Retrieved October 29, 2010 from

Carman, J.G. & Fredericks, K.A. (2010).  Evaluation Capacity and Nonprofit Organizations: Is the Glass Half-Empty or Half-Full? American Journal of Evaluation, 31, 84-104.

Stone Motes, P., Whiting, J., & Salone, J. (2007). Consulting to organizational and community groups. In P. Stone Motes, & P.McCartt Hess (Eds.), Collaborating with community-based organizations (pp. 19–53). New York: Columbia University Press.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Minnesota Evaluation Association (MN EA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the MNEA AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our MNEA 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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.