You may have heard the saying “What gets measured, gets done.” In Minnesota, nearly every program, initiative, or collaborative effort has an evaluation component. With the practical application of so many different evaluations, we wondered: What are the conditions that make an environment fertile for evaluation – and evaluators?
Lessons Learned: Here are several factors that I think make Minnesota a great place to be an evaluator:
- A vibrant nonprofit and philanthropic economy – With 60 nonprofits per 10,000 residents, Minnesota nonprofits use many ways to make our world a better place. A generous philanthropic and business community, with numerous foundation heads and Fortune 500 CEOs, takes on challenges in early learning, the education opportunity gap, workforce disparities, transportation and others. These leaders rely on evaluation to understand the impact of their investments, see how programs could be improved, and identify what works and what doesn’t.
- A rich talent pool – Minnesota has numerous higher education institutions. People come from all over the world to learn to do evaluation. Many stay and make their lives here. “I was lucky to get a job at the University of Minnesota Extension after the University made a commitment to embed a lead internal evaluator in each of Extension’s four major areas of programming,” says Scott Chazdon, Evaluation and Research Specialist at University of Minnesota Extension. Chazdon says this is a far-sighted commitment that very few land-grant universities have made. “Do I think this is because there is a strong culture of evaluation in Minnesota? Yes!”
- Civically-engaged residents – Minnesota regularly leads the nation in civic engagement, such as high voting and volunteerism rates. “One reason Minnesota is a hotbed for evaluation is that Minnesotans are interested in getting together to try to solve problems,” says Craig Helmstetter, Managing Partner for American Public Media Research Lab and Analyst Group. “Eventually we want to know whether these ‘solutions’ are working.”
- An evaluative mindset (Hint: I saved the most important one for last!) – Many of our clients first turn to us for evaluation services because, quite frankly, they are required to. As an evaluator who is passionate about improving our world, nothing gives me more joy than when a client realizes the value of evaluation. They see a crucial piece of understanding how well their program is working, how to adjust and improve, and potentially how to replicate and spread good work to others!
Rad Resources: Based on these factors, is your state a hotbed for evaluation? Check out these links to see.
- National Center for Charitable Statistics
- The Foundation Center, Foundation Stats
- Volunteerism and Civic Engagement in the U.S.
The American Evaluation Association is highlighting the work of The Improve Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from staff of The Improve Group. 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.