Hi, my name is Maria Moeller, Chief Marketing Officer at The Improve Group. We are super excited to invite AEA attendees to an event we are hosting on Friday: A Night at the Improv with The Improve Group.
You might wonder, how is improv related to evaluation? When we first considered working with an improv group for an event a few years ago, we hadn’t thought about it in terms of its relation to evaluation – we just wanted to make folks laugh! But as we worked with the group, we came to recognize that there are several tenets of improvisational comedy that can be useful in evaluation work.
Improv is all about saying yes! Can you imagine an improv show where an actor rejects the premise of a skit or doesn’t pick up on a line? One of the reasons improv is funny, is that the actors have to say yes to something unexpected and not planned. And while evaluation is a planful practice, it is important to be open to the variety of voices making unexpected suggestions. When engaging with program staff or stakeholders – and even other evaluators – think about saying yes to hearing their ideas, even if they don’t follow the plan.
Another tenet of improv is to laugh at yourself. Let’s face it – much of our evaluation work is serious and impacts real lives and thus can feel heavy. But, sometimes we need a bit of levity – and making room to laugh at ourselves helps give us perspective on the situation. Perhaps if we can find the courage to laugh at ourselves, we can…
Improv also requires actors to shift their perspective – the skits or set-up lines require them to jump into the perspective of another person (like most acting). Likewise, in evaluation, we need to consider things from a variety of perspectives. As a consultant, we might be thinking about the different perspectives of the funder and the program manager. As an inside evaluator, you might need to see an issue from the perspective of leadership as well as community members. In either case, shifting your perspective is good practice to be purposeful about the variety of perspectives.
Finally, improv depends on collaboration and listening well. Improv actors often make it look effortless, but it’s hard work to listen closely and collaborate on the fly to produce a great show. Collaboration and good listening skills are also vital in evaluation – from data collection to analysis to reporting, evaluators need to collaborate with team members and listen to all voices being raised.
Rad Resource: If you are attending Evaluation 2019, I hope you will join us. The event is free and open to all attendees. It will be held at Minneapolis’ famous Brit’s Pub (5-minute walk from the conference) on Friday, November 15, 7-10 pm. Come hang out with us and our friends from The Theater of Public Policy for “A Night at the Improv with The Improve Group!” T2P2’s policy wonk comedians will chat with attendees before performing a very AEA-themed improv set. If this opportunity to meet and hang out with other AEAers sounds like your jam, please arrive by 8pm so performers from T2P2 have time to mingle with you—that’s how they’ll get inspiration for their 8:30 pm show!
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.