Like many people, I find change hard. In fact, I really don’t like change. I think this is the result of a high school experience; one-third of my classmates left each year. (I was a military off-spring; we changed assignments every three years.)
Yet, in today’s world change is probably the only constant. Does that make it fun? Not necessarily. Does that make it easy? Nope. Does that make it necessary? Yep.
Evaluators deal with change regularly. New programs are required; those must be evaluated. Old programs are revised; those must be evaluated. New approaches are developed and presented to the field. (When I first became an evaluator, there wasn’t a systems approach to evaluation; there wasn’t developmental evaluation; I could continue.) New technologies are available and must be used even if the old one wasn’t broken (even for those of us who are techno-peasants).
I just finished a major qualitative evaluation that involved real-time virtual focus groups. When I researched this topic (virtual focus groups), I found a lot of information about non-synchronous focus groups, focus groups using a conferencing software, even synchronous focus groups without pictures. I didn’t find anything about using real-time synchronous virtual focus groups. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much money even though there are services available.
We had technical problems. We had people who declined (and then complained that they were not included). We had groups that consisted of two people. (Is that really a group?) Every thing I knew about focus groups said 10 -12 participants. We (as it was a group effort) figured that some of the invited members would not participate. We were looking for 6 – 8 participating members. We did a lot of adjusting to accommodate the numbers. There was a lot of change. I got frustrated. I wanted to quit. I didn’t. And consequently, neither did the team. Change happened.We persevered and conducted 12 virtual focus groups with a total of 65 participating members. I did two individual interviews as well. They were considered external stakeholders and although we would have loved to have focus groups consisting of external stakeholders, that didn’t happen. I am grateful that they were willing to participate.
Now I’m analyzing the data; a challenging task to be sure. I’m not expecting any surprises; I hope there are not any–that would mean more change. Something I don’t like. Change is hard.