“Humans are social animals for good reason. Without collaboration, there is no survival. It was not possible to defeat a Woolley Mammoth, build a secure structure, or care for children while hunting without a team effort. It’s more true now than then. Our reliance on each other grows as societies became more complex, interconnected, and specialized. Connection is a prerequisite for survival, physically and emotionally.”
This statement, which I found on Harold Jarche ‘s blog, applies to evaluation as much as it applies to the example provided by Psychology Today.
Evaluation is a collaborative effort; a team effort, a social effort. Without the collaboration, evaluation lacks much. I’m not sure that survival is dependent on evaluation and collaborative effort; perhaps. The evaluator may know all about evaluation and yet not be able to solve the problem presented by the client because the evaluator doesn’t know about the topic needing to be evaluated. The evaluator may know about something similar to and different from what the client needs and yet, not know about the specific problem. Let me give you an example.
I’ve done a lot of evaluation in the natural resources area and as a result, I’ve learned much about various natural resource topics, including horticulture, plant science, crop science, marine science. I do not know much about potatoes. A while back, a colleague called me and asked if I could/would serve as the evaluator on a ZEBRA CHIP project. Before I said, Sure, I asked about ZEBRA CHIP. Apparently, it is a potato disease transmitted by bacteria carrying psyllid that is causing much economic devastation among growers. It shows up best when the potatoes are made into chips (hence the name). It looks like this: . To me, it isn’t particularly stripped like the animal which offers its name, yet it doesn’t look like potato chips I’m used to seeing. I”m told that there is an unpleasant flavor to the chips as well. I knew a lot about growing things, not about potatoes, even though I’ve worked with potato growers before, just not about this disease.
So, I said sure, only to discover that I have 11 lines in which to write a cogent evaluation section for the work that Extension will be doing (if the grant is funded). If the grant is funded, it will be a five year effort. A continuation actually, which brings me full circle–a collaboration of multiple universities, multiple disciplines, multiple investigators. So what could I say cogently in 11 lines? I suggested that perhaps looking at intention and confidence would be appropriate because we (remember, I said, “Sure”) would not be able to measure actual behavior change. And to overcome the psyllids and eradicate this problem (not unlike the spotted wing drosophila which is affecting the soft fruits of the NW, specifically blueberries), we would need to get as close to behavior change as possible once the teaching has occurred. How can social media be used here? Good question–something to explore. At what level of Maslow’s hierarchy is this collaboration? Survival, sure. Somehow I don’t think Maslow was focused on economic survival.
Within the last 24 hours I’ve had two experiences that remind me of how tenuous our connection is to others.
Wikipedia says the phrase of “dog days” refers to the sultry (read: HOT) days of summer, typically July and August in the northern hemisphere. In Oregon, it is definitely August. It was 100.4 yesterday; 96 the day before. I didn’t sleep well, even with fans and cool evenings (low 60s). This is the hottest summer I’ve experienced in the 16 years I’ve been in Oregon–there were 10 days of hot weather in May, June, and July; and now so far in August. The Dog days are also when the star Sirius can be seen (assuming there is no cloud cover, a common phenomenon in Oregon–if not the winter rainy season, then summer thunderstorms.) Dog days were thought to be when “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man (sic), among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813 (A Compendious Analysis of the Calendar; Illustrated with Ecclesiastica, Historical, and Classical Anecdotes 2 volumes). Read the rest of this entry »
Periodically I read Harold Jarche’s blog, Shedding Light on Workplace Transformation. The post on June 13, 2014 talks about the topic of “work is changing”. He offered (as he is wont to do) some insights he has gleaned from social media over the the past fortnight including a statement from Hugh MacLeod @gapingvoid. MacLeod also wrote about what is corporate culture. A relevant topic for evaluators.
It gave me pause, especially in light of evaluation and the work I do. MacLeod says, “The nature of work is changing. People’s relationship with work is changing. The changes to society will be vast.” Because the nature of work is changing, the nature of evaluation is also changing. The change in evaluation is evidenced by looking at the evolution of evaluation from the early 1960s to the present. That is over 50 years of evolution–I know that in the grand scheme of things, 50 years is nothing. For this profession, it is a lot. It kinda mirrors the leaps and bounds in technology. Of that 50+ years, I’ve been in the field over 30; I’ve seen so many changes. Recognizing the time to step out and let the next generation of evaluators work is critical. Reinventing yourself so that you can still play in the sandbox (so to speak) is also important.
I recently had a conversation with a long time friend who has been successful at reinventing self. At the age where most people want only to play with their grandchildren , my friend is jetting around the world looking NOT at evaluation rather another field entirely, albeit still professionally and scholarly invested; being invited as a consultant, a speaker, a presenter at various meetings. Another long-time friend of mine who has been “retired” for 10 years has just finished a new book and has not one, TWO monographs in press. This is retirement?
Not only are evaluators re-inventing themselves to match the times, evaluation is also evolving, changing, and thinking differently than 50 years ago. Is this the evolution of a profession? Is this the evolution of the workforce? Is this the evolution of work? Yes. Yes. Yes.
What are you doing to further the profession? How will your contribution to the field help make the profession better? Let me know.
What? So what? Now what?
Sounds like an evaluation problem.
King and Stevahn (in press) tells us the first query requires thoughtful observation of a situation; the second query a discussion of possible options and implications of those options, and the third query calls for the creation of a list of potential next steps.
Yet these are the key words for “adaptive action” (If you haven’t looked at the web site, I suggest you do.) One quote that is reflective of adaptive action is, “Adaptive Action reveals how we can be proactive in managing today and influencing tomorrow.”( David W. Jamieson, University of St. Thomas). Adaptive action can help you
Evaluation is a proactive (usually) activity (oh, I know that sometimes evaluation is flying by the seat of your pants and is totally reactive). People are now recognizing that evaluation will benefit them, their programs, and their organizations and that it isn’t personal (although that fear is still out there).
Although the site is directed towards leadership in organizations, the key questions are evaluative. You can’t determine “what” without evidence (data); you can’t determine “so what” unless you have a plan (logic model), and you can’t think about “now what” unless you have an outcome that you can move toward. These questions are evaluative in contemporary times because there are no simple problems any more. (Panarchy approaches similar situations using a similar model .) Complex situations are facing program people and evaluators all the time. Using adaptive action may help. Panarchy may help (the book is called Panarchy by Gunderson and Hollings .)
Just think of adaptive action as another model of evaluation.
Many of you have numerous lists for summer reading (NY Times, NPR, Goodreads, Amazon, others…). My question is what are you reading to further your knowledge about evaluation? Perhaps you are; perhaps you’re not. So I’m going to give you one more list …yes, it is evaluative.
If you want something qualitative: Qualitative Data Analysis by Matthew B. Miles, A. Michael Huberman, and Johnny Saldana. It is the new 3rd edition which Sage (the publisher) commissioned. A good thing, too, as both Miles and Huberman are no longer able to do a revision. My new go-to book.
If you want something on needs assessment: Bridging the Gap Between Asset/Capacity Building and Needs Assessment by James W. Altschuld. Most needs assessments start with what is lacking (i.e., needed); this proposes that an assessment start with what is present (assets) and build from there, and in the process, meeting needs.
If you want something on higher education: College (Un)bound by Jeff Selingo. The state of higher education and some viable alternatives by a contributing editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Yes, it is evaluative.
Most of these I’ve mentioned before. I’ve read the above. I recommend them.
Recently I came across some old note of mine, from some meeting several years ago. I though it would be useful in my writing so I saved it; actually there were two notes that were similar in content. They both relate to blogging, although at the time I didn’t know I would be blogging.
I lump them all under the title of taking a stand, although stance would probably be more descriptive.
The notes are these:
How do you approach evaluation?
Are you the expert?
Do you work in partnership?
Are you one of the group?
To which question did you answer yes?
If you are the expert and know the most (not everything, no one know everything [although teenagers think they do]), you are probably “doing to”. Extension has been “doing to” for most of its existence. Read the rest of this entry »
The US has been a country for 238 years. A long time. Perhaps it is an opportunity to reflect on what are the rights, privileges, and obligations of citizenship. Perhaps it is just another holiday. Perhaps it is just a time for blueberry pie and peach ice cream. Perhaps it is a…fill in the blank.
I’m not feeling particularly patriotic. I am feeling very evaluative. Recently I viewed a map indicating that on a US passport an individual could travel to 172 different countries. The only country passports which were more powerful (i.e., able to visit more countries) were UK, Finland and Sweden. I wonder to where (what country) can’t I travel on my US passport? That question requires evidence. That is evaluative. I value my US passport. My girls and I travel with them even though driver’s license would be easier. (Being able to fly to Paris at a Read the rest of this entry »
What makes a blog engaging?
We know that blogs and blogging outreach to community members–those who have subscribed as well as those using various search engines to find a topical response.
Do the various forms of accessing the blog make a difference in whether the reader is engaged?
This is not a casual question, dear Readers. I will be presenting a poster at the Engagement Scholarship Consortium in October (which will be held in Edmonton, Alberta). I want to know. I want to be able to present to the various audiences at that meeting what my readers think. I realize that reading evaluation blogs may yield a response that is different from reading blogs related to food, or sustainability, or food sustainability, or climate chaos, or parenthood, or some other topic. There are enough evaluation blogs populating the internet that I think that there is some interest. I think my readers are engaged. Read the rest of this entry »