Hi, my name is Rhodri Dierst-Davies and I am a senior manager with Deloitte Consulting. As a leader in our Program Evaluation Center of Excellence we help our clients solve their most challenging problems.
I have been a fan of Ru Paul’s Drag Race show since it began back in 2009. For those who may not know about it, the show is a mixture of Survivor and a Miss America competition for drag queens. Each week contestants (“queens”) compete in a series of pagent-like challenges culminating in a final, judged runway competition where outfits are based on a chosen theme. In addition to a weekly winner being crowned, the bottom two queens must, as the host RuPaul says, “lip sync for your life,” and then told, “…and remember, don’t f%&k it up,” with the loser being sent home. The overall goal is to be crowned, “America’s Next Drag Superstar.”
Creativity Within Limits
Besides having some of the best catchphrases I’ve ever heard on TV, the show is surprisingly formulaic in approach. This reminds me of one of the most fundamental lessons in the field of evaluation, or any other research endeavor: know the rules of the road first, and THEN get creative.
Contestants who understand the fundamentals of the challenges and listen to judges’ critiques alway do better week over week. These queens understand that you can be creative while also addressing the fundamentals of what is expected. As evaluators we are constantly thinking up creative ways of addressing monitoring, data collection, and measurement issues. Oftentimes these goals must be balanced by requirements from our clients and contracts which can seem limiting. In my experience the best evaluators are the ones that find the balance between creativity in execution while still being semi-forumalic in approach.
Be Prepared for what you know is coming
Another lesson of the show: never forget to be prepared for what you know is coming. Every season there are challenges where contestants must sew, a fact that has not changed since the shows inception. Despite this, some queens arrive in the dressing room not having this fundamental skill, and it always ends badly for them (watch LaLa Ri lip sync for her life after hot gluing gift bags to a corset).
This is no different in the field of evaluation, where failing to do pre-planning leads to chaos, miscommunications, and poor outcomes. Evaluators should always expect to understand the project scope and stated needs so we can better identify theoretical frameworks/theories that are most relevant to the work and bring the critical skills to the table on day one.
- Being creative within the limits is challenging but rewarding.
- Preparing for what’s coming is key to success.
- Preparing for an Evaluation – Guidelines and Tools for Pre-Evaluation Planning
- Getting creative with evaluation – 5 things to consider
- Tips for surviving RuPauls Drag Race
This week, AEA365 is hosting Reality TV Lessons Week where contributing authors share lessons learned from their guilty pleasure favorite TV shows. 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 email@example.com. 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.