Visionary Evaluation Week: Being a Visionary Evaluative as an Internal Evaluator by Eric Barela

Eric Barela
Eric Barela

Hello, I’m Eric Barela, Salesforce’s Director of Measurement and Evaluation. I had the privilege of contributing a chapter to Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future focusing on the business sector in 2030. Through my writing, I was able to reflect on how being a Visionary Evaluative (VE) influences my work as an internal evaluator.

My work includes evaluating elements of Salesforce’s global Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts, so the VE Principle (VEP) of sustainability and equity is definitely top-of-mind. Increasingly, corporations realize a sustainability and equity focus makes good business sense. At Salesforce, we are committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 17 goals agreed to by world leaders for a better world by 2030, some of which overlap with the VEPs. I work with colleagues at Salesforce to determine how we’ll measure and report against the SDGs. 

Visionary Evaluation Book Cover

However, being a Visionary Evaluative doesn’t just show up in my CSR-related work. It also shows up in how I do my work. I chose to be an internal evaluator in part because I’m committed to organizational learning.

It isn’t enough to generate findings. I also ensure that my colleagues can do something with the evidence on outcomes I provide, supporting a VEP #5 approach. I add value as a VE both in my reporting AND in my prioritization and facilitation of learning.

Lessons Learned: This approach has not always been easy. I’ve been challenged on whether I’m objective enough. What I’ve come to learn is that objectivity is both a positioning and a skill. Being committed to organizational learning and to rigorous inquiry requires my balancing both. Working toward transparency and understanding of values (VEP #4) makes me a Visionary Evaluative and makes my organization a better one.

I also use AEA’s Guiding Principles in my work. They show that, as a profession, we are coming to the realization that evaluators must attend to sustainability and equity as elements of good evaluation practice. As a believer of the Visionary Evaluative Principles, I know this is a step in the right direction.

What is a Visionary Evaluative? and The Visionary Evaluative Principles bullet points

Rad Resources: Learn about the history of CSR, the Triple Bottom Line, and what might be possible in 2030 with a VE approach in the Business Chapter of Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future . Also learn about Bob Willard’s Five Stage Sustainability Journey.

You can learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals here and AEA Guiding Principles here.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating the publication of Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future, an outgrowth of the Evaluation 2014 conference theme with the same name. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from editors and authors of the book.  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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “Visionary Evaluation Week: Being a Visionary Evaluative as an Internal Evaluator by Eric Barela”

  1. Hi Eric,

    My name is Josh and I am currently enrolled in an introductory course about Program Evaluation for my Masters of Education. The concept of a visionary evaluative as an internal evaluator caught my attention.

    Equity and sustainability are definitely topics that permeate throughout much of the public sector as well as private. These values are being promoted within our communities, television programs, literature and through company policies. With equity and sustainability being essential to our communities; consumers and community members want to see these values reflected in social programs, services and products that they engage in and purchase.

    The definition of a VE that you outline has some overlap with the traditional role of an evaluator with some huge differences in terms of principles. The VE principals you outline describe a philosophical shift of the evaluator to common values in the 21st century. Salesforce definitely looks to be a great place to share and further develop these principles and skills. Congratulations on the book contribution!

    Thank you for sharing!

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