“Resilience = Not having all of your eggs in one basket.

Abundance = having enough eggs.”

Borrowed from and appearing in the blog by Harold Jarche, Models, flows, and exposure, posted April 28, 2012.


In January, John Hagel blogged in  Edge Perspectives:  “If we are not enhancing flow, we will be marginalized, both in our personal and professional life. If we want to remain successful and reap the enormous rewards that can be generated from flows, we must continually seek to refine the designs of the systems that we spend time in to ensure that they are ever more effective in sustaining and amplifying flows.”

That is a powerful message.  Just how do we keep from being marginalized, especially when there is a shifting paradigm?  How does that relate to evaluation?  What exactly do we need to do to keep evaluation skills from being lost in the shift and be marginalized?  Good questions.

The priest at the church I attend is retiring, after 30 years of service.  This is a significant and unprecedented change (at least in my tenure there).  Before he left for summer school in Minnesota, he gave the governing board a pep talk that has relevance to evaluation.  He posited that what we needed to do was not focus on what we needed, rather focus on what strengths and assets we currently have and build on them.  No easy task, to be sure.  And not the  usual approach for an interim.  The usual approach is what do we want; what do we need for this interim.  See the shifting paradigm?  I hope so.

Needs assessment is often the same approach–what do you want; what do you need.  (Notice the use of the word “you” in this sentence; more on that later in another post.)  A well intentioned evaluator recognizes that something is missing or lacking and conducts a needs assessment documenting that need/lack/deficit.  What would happen, do you think, if the evaluator documented what assets existed and developed a program to build that capacity?  Youth leadership development has been building programs to build assets for many years (See citations below).  The approach taken by the youth development professionals is that there are certain skills, or assets, which, if strengthened, build resilience.  Buy building resilience, needs are mitigated; problems solved or avoided; goals met.

So what would happen if, when conducting a “needs” assessment, an evaluator actually conducted an asset assessment and developed programs to benefit the community by building capacity which strengthened assets and built resiliency?  Have you ever tried that approach?

By focusing on strengths and assets instead of weaknesses and liabilities, programs could be built that would benefit more than a vocal minority.  The greater whole could benefit.  Wouldn’t that be novel?  Wouldn’t that be great!


1.  Benson, P. L. (1997).  All Kids are Our Kids.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass Publishers

2.  Silbereisen, R. K. & Lerner, R. M. (2007).  Approaches to Positive Youth Development. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.


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One thought on “Needs assessment–shifting the paradigm

  1. Hi Molly,

    This sounds like appreciative inquiry…and also a great strengths based, solutions focused approach. People want to know what’s going well and should capitalize on this by finding ways to sustain these activities.

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