These three questions have buzzed around my head for a while in various formats.
When I attend a conference, I wonder.
When I conduct a program, I wonder, again.
When I explore something new, I am reminded that perhaps someone else has been here and wonder, yet again.
After all, aren’t both of these statements (capacity building and engagement) relating to a “foreign country” and a different culture?
How does all this relate to evaluation? Read on…
Premise: Evaluation is an everyday activity. You evaluate everyday; all the time; you call it making decisions. Every time you make a decision, you are building capacity in your ability to evaluate. Sure, some of those decisions may need to be revised. Sure, some of those decisions may just yield “negative” results. Even so, you are building capacity. AND you share that knowledge–with your children (if you have them), with your friends, with your colleagues, with the random shopper in the (grocery) store. That is building capacity. Building capacity can be systematic, organized, sequential. Sometimes formal, scheduled, deliberate. It is sharing “What do I know that they don’t know (in the hope that they too will know it and use it).
Premise: Everyone knows something. In knowing something, evaluation happens–because people made decisions about what is important and what is not. To really engage (not just outreach which much of Extension does), one needs to “do as” the group that is being engaged. To do anything else (“doing to” or “doing with”) is simply outreach and little or no knowledge is exchanged. Doesn’t mean that knowledge isn’t distributed; Extension has been doing that for years. Just means that the assumption (and you know what assumptions do) is that only the expert can distribute knowledge. Who is to say that the group (target audience, participants) aren’t expert in at least part of what is being communicated. Probably are. It is the idea that … they know something that I don’t know (and I would benefit from knowing).
Premise: Everything, everyone is connected. Being prepared is the best way to learn something. Being prepared by understanding culture (I’m not talking only about the intersection of race and gender; I’m talking about all the stereotypes you carry with you all the time) reinforces connections. Learning about other cultures (something everyone can do) helps dis-spell stereotypes and mitigate stereotype threats. And that is an evaluative task. Think about it. I think it captures the What do all of us need to know that few of us knows?” question.