Once again, it is the whole ‘balance’ thing…(we) live in ordinary life and that ordinary life is really the only life we have…I’ll take it. It has some great moments…
These wise words come from the insights of Buddy Stallings, Episcopal priest in charge of a large parish in a large city in the US. True, I took them out of context; the important thing is that they resonated with me from an evaluation perspective.
Too often, faculty and colleagues come to me and wonder what the impact is of this or that program. I wonder, What do they mean? What do they want to know? Are they only using words they have heard–the buzz words? I ponder how this fits into their ordinary life. Or are they outside their ordinary life, pretending in a foreign country?
A faculty member at Oregon State University equated history to a foreign country. I was put in a mind that evaluation is a foreign country to many (most) people, even though everyone evaluates every day, whether they know it or not. Individuals visit that contry because they are required to visit; to gather information; to report what they discovered. They do this with out any special preparation. Visiting a foreign country entails preparation (at least it does for me). A study of customs, mores, foods, language, behavior, tools (I’m sure I’m missing something important in this list) is needed; not just necessary, mandatory. Because although the foreign country may be exotic and unique and novel to you, it is ordinary life for everyone who lives there. The same is true for evaluation. There are customs; students are socialized to think and act in a certain way. Mores are constantly being called into question; language, behaviors, tools, which not known to you in your ordinary life, present themselves. You are constantly presented with opportunities to be outside your ordinary life. Yet, I wonder what are you missing by not seeing the ordinary; by pretending that it is extraordinary? By not doing the preparation to make evaluation part of your ordinary life, something you do without thinking.
So I ask you, What preparation have you done to visit this foreign country called EVALUATION? What are you currently doing to increase your understanding of this country? How does this visit change your ordinary life or can you get those great moments by recognizing that this is truly the only life you have? So I ask you, What are you really asking when you ask, What are the impacts?
All of this has significant implications for capacity building.