Hi, I’m Joe Bauer, the Director of Survey Research & Evaluation in the Statistics & Evaluation Center (SEC) at the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Atlanta, Georgia. I have been working as an internal evaluator at the ACS for almost nine years, in a very challenging, but very rewarding position.
Lesson Learned: Evaluation is always political and you must be aware of those cultural dynamics that are part of every environment. I came to the American Cancer Society to have an impact at a national level. I had envisioned evaluation (and still do) as a means to systematically improve programs to improve the lives of cancer patients.
In the beginning, many were not ‘believers’ in evaluation. The perception was that evaluation could only lead to finding things that were wrong or that were not working – and that this might lead to politically problematic situations. We needed to navigate the cultural mine fields, even as we were acting as change agents. Over time, our Center worked hard to build a sense of trust. As internal evaluators, one must always be aware that we are being judged, as to how nice you are playing in the sandbox, even as we strive and push for higher quality, better data, and better study designs. Evaluators ask the tough questions – which at times cause ‘friction’. However, an internal evaluator must have a comfort level and the confidence with taking that role of asking the tough questions, which can be lonely.
Hot Tips: As an internal evaluator, one must be willing to ‘stay the course’ and ‘weather the storms’ and to never compromise on your values. This is crucially important – because you always need to do the right thing. This does not mean you end up winning all these ‘battles’, because ultimately, you can and are over-ruled on many issues. However, you must keep your integrity – because that is something you need to own throughout your career. That is also what builds trust and credibility.
Rad Resources: The American Evaluation Association’s Guiding Principles for Evaluators http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=51 – which are intended to guide the professional practice for evaluators and inform evaluation clients and the general public about the principles they can expect to be upheld by professional evaluators.
The Official Dilbert Website with Scott Adams http://www.dilbert.com/ – where there are many ‘real world’ examples of the cultural dynamics that occur in the world of work and the often absurd scenarios and dynamics that play themselves out. As an evaluator – you will not only need to have a good skill set and work hard at keeping your values and integrity – you will need to have a sense of humor and keep your perspective.
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