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.
If you work in partnership recognizing that the group with whom you are working has many cumulative years of knowledge and can give back to you, participants are co-equals, you are probably “doing with”.
If you are really one of the group, working daily to understand differences and biases, sharing that information and gathering information, you are probably “doing as”.
How does all this relate to evaluation? There are approaches to inquiry (of which evaluation is only one) that attempt to get the evaluator away from being the expert. David Fetterman has developed a model called empowerment evaluation ( and writes a blog about it here). His idea is basically to give the ability to evaluate away to the people who live the program/project…making them responsible, making them expert. The evaluator still needs to consult (obviously, or what would evaluators do?). Still it is an example of “doing with” that makes a world of difference. Community-based participatory research is another partnership form of inquiry often seen in public health and other outreach activities (read more about it here). Michael Quinn Patton talks about participatory evaluation in his book, Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods . Participatory action research is another; I’m sure there are others…
The “doing as” concept comes from the diversity literature and includes information on cognitive bias. I heard it first from an evaluation colleague who is an indigenous person from NZ. And although I find this label compelling in its description, I find little or nothing on the concept in the literature. So let me see if I can describe it to you…when you evaluate from the perspective of “doing as” you evaluate as though you are a member of the community, owning the experience, and sharing what you know. It does include the “doing with” concept, to be sure, and goes further than that; the evaluator wears the hat, clothes, shoes of the group, the target group. It is being culturally aware, culturally competent; it is understanding, even if you cannot truly know, what it is like to be that person.
So, dear Readers. Are you doing to, doing with, or doing as when you evaluate?
We need to work diligently to do “doing as” when we evaluate.