I am Dr. Wendy Tackett, founder of the evaluation consulting firm, iEval, in Michigan and author of the new book called Having FUN With Evaluation! I strongly believe in making evaluation useful, and one of the best ways I’ve found to do that is to embed an atmosphere of fun into the work I am doing.
And this is Wender Woman. She likes to point out important ideas for improving client use of evaluation findings, particularly when they incorporate elements of fun. So, the short answer to the question above is YES! YES, we should be having fun with evaluation!! How can we incorporate fun while still adhering to quality guidelines for evaluation?
- Make sure all key stakeholders have a common understanding of what evaluation is. This can be done in a fun, interactive way which also helps build camaraderie between the evaluation team, the program leaders, and other key stakeholders. You can use videos such as Eva the Evaluator based on the book by Roger Miranda, the cookie activity as described by Hallie Preskill and Darlene Russ-Eft in Building Evaluation Capacity, or the snowflake activity found in my book.
- Take time to get to know your evaluation stakeholders and clients, not just their professional roles and needs but also some personal details.
- Do they like to snowshoe?
- Are they Disney fans?
- Are they counting down the days until the Cubs win the next World Series?
Finding common ground with the stakeholders can help you make the discussion more meaningful as you integrate relevant references to their particular interests. It also makes you more approachable – the evaluation stakeholders get to see the personal side of that scary evaluator! Finding those commonalities makes it easier to talk about more difficult issues such as evaluation findings that may drastically change their future implementation of programming. Then, on the professional side, make sure you take the time to understand what people want to learn from the evaluation and how it could help them do their job better.
- Clarify the evaluation process and who is responsible for being part of the evaluation. When people understand more about the evaluation process, they feel more ownership in the implementation and success of it – helping make the evaluation run more smoothly. As people learn about evaluation, they become evaluation champions, encouraging others to learn about it, which makes your job as an evaluator much easier. The ultimate payoff is that people who understand the evaluation process and have become champions of the work are more likely to use the evaluation findings in a meaningful way.
Transparent evaluation process + Clear evaluation tools + Simple metrics + FUN
Increased likelihood of finding meaning and use in the evaluation process!
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