Working ‘with’ (not just ‘for’) your client by Holly Brown

Hello all! Holly Brown here. I am what you could call a ‘budding’ program evaluator – a Social Work Master’s student filled with curiosity and excitement, and a Research Assistant for the Tucson, Arizona-based company, Viable Insights. For the past few years I’ve kept one hand in the Social Work world and the other in the land of Program Evaluation, and what I’ve noticed is that they share a very strong cord, that is, the foundations of Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR).

One component of CBPR that I find acts as the soil of any flourishing partnership between Evaluator and Client is:

The practice of working ‘with’, not just ‘for’ someone.

Consider the connotations of ‘for’ and ‘with.’ One implies a transaction: This for that, often producing a framework of independence. On the other hand, the word ‘with’ implies that there are two people teaming up. This shouldn’t look like one person trying to keep up with the other, but rather, they should be side by side, interacting, sharing, communicating, and accomplishing great things.

As an evaluator, you have so much to offer to the world; however, there are two ways you can complete your work: 1) You bury your head in the project and get through it as efficiently as possible, or, 2) You pause at each step of the process to reflect on whether what you’re doing is as inclusive as it is efficient. Trust me, I LOVE finding a super efficient way to do something. Not much is more satisfying or helpful. However, the most efficient way is not always the best way if it neglects our client’s needs. Interpersonal effectiveness should be just as important as other components of your program/research objectives.

Hot Tip: Some examples of what I consider a ‘With’ vs. ‘For’ approach.

Table of example of "with" vs "for" scenarios

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