Hi, I’m Corey Newhouse, the Founder and Principal of Public Profit. We help mission driven organizations learn from data, make better decisions, and improve the quality and effectiveness of their work.
My go-to reality show is the Great British Baking Show (or Great British Bake Off for those in the UK). For those who aren’t yet familiar, in this show, amateur bakers compete in a series of themed challenges, like Bread Week, Pastry Week… you get the idea. There are at least three lessons we can learn from this show:
Don’t Be A Jerk
In the show, the contestants are very supportive of each other, complementing each other’s work and occasionally helping a pressed-for-time colleague to ice one last sticky bun.
As an evaluator, my work is vastly better when I collaborate with others, whether through leveraging complementary skills, asking for honest feedback, or even referring a prospective client to a colleague. This approach makes me a better evaluation consultant, encourages reciprocal referrals from colleagues, and aligns with my lifelong goal to not be a jerk.
Apply Confident Creativity
One of the weekly challenges is called the Technical, in which the judges give very basic guidelines to the bakers, along with a set of ingredients. The bakers then must rely on their prior knowledge to bake something that they may never have heard of before.
Some evaluation engagements feel like a never-ending Technical challenge, requiring constant reassessment of the overall purpose, methods, or anticipated use. This is especially true for developmental evaluations. These emergent evaluations call for evaluators to call on their prior experience, to seek insight from new sources, and to be open to learning in the open. Finding the balance between trusting your training and re-calibrating to new conditions is key.
Give Good Feedback
The judges on the show provide specific, constructive feedback to bakers, noting what is working well about the bake, and what could be better. I appreciate that they almost always explain why something went wrong.
This is at the heart of good evaluation, too. First, we need to craft our studies in ways that will yield actionable data, such as looking at implementation quality or the strength of the underlying theory guiding the initiative. Second, we need to do our best to make clear recommendations informed by our findings. Simply presenting data is rarely sufficient to lead to action.
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Build relationships with colleagues in multiple fields, including evaluation, fundraising, communications, and program. They can be a valuable source of advice, and even referrals!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.