Oregon Evaluators Week: Evaluation in Rural and Frontier Settings: What Us Urbanites Should Keep in Mind by Corey Newhouse

I’m Corey Newhouse, Founder and Principal of Public Profit, a consultancy that helps mission driven organizations use data to make great decisions and improve the quality of their work. I’m also an avowed urbanite, more comfortable muscling my way through rush hour crowds than on an empty forest path.

Since Oregon is a predominately rural state, with a population density similar to Utah and Maine, I’ve needed to adjust my mindset.

Hot Tips:

Use In-Person Time Wisely: In rural and frontier communities, it may take an hour or more to get to the closest community center or school, much less to the closest city. Think about when you really need to gather in person, and where. Consider clustering multiple brief activities into a daylong or two-day event and use a location that’s fairly centrally located.

Get Comfortable with Smaller Sample Sizes: Make sure you understand what’s reasonable to expect when it comes to sample sizes. Many of us have unspoken assumptions about the “right” size for a focus group or survey sample that won’t apply in a rural or frontier community.

Images Matter: Oftentimes evaluators use stock photos to enrich a report or outreach materials. Take care that the images you use resonate with your rural and frontier audiences; organizations may prefer to use photos they have collected themselves for this reason.

Seek Input on Interactions: Rural and frontier communities have cultural norms, just like everywhere else. Proactively seek input about how to interact in ways that communicate respect and get your point across. Rural clients have coached me on everything from how to ask a question about a sensitive topic to whether to call an incentive a “gift card” or “gift certificate.”

Rad Resource: Evaluation in Rural Communities by Allyson Kelley.

Work from home tip: Create opportunities for informal interactions with colleagues and collaborators. No set agenda, no meeting objectives, just time to check in and chat. This will help you to stay connected as people, and can germinate new ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of alone.

This week, AEA365 is featuring posts from evaluators in Oregon. Since Evaluation 2020 was moved from Portland, OR to online, a generous group of Oregon evaluators got together to offer content on a variety of topics relevant to evaluators. 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.

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