Filed Under (Data Analysis, program evaluation) by Molly on 23-06-2017

Alternative facts.

Never. Never. has evaluation been questioned with the label of “alternative facts.”

Over the years, I have been very aware that evaluation is a political activity.

I have talked about evaluation being political (here, and here, and here, and here ).

But is it? Is it just another way of making the answer be what we want it to be? A form of alternative fact?

I’ve been an evaluator for a long time. I want to make a difference to the people who experience my programs (or the programs for which I’m consulting as an external evaluator). The thought that I might be presenting “alternative facts” is troublesome.

Did I really determine that outcome? Or is the outcome bogus? Liars use statistics, you know. (This is a paraphrase of a quote that Mark Twain attributed to Benjamin Disraeli.)

Big news brings out the fakers. But are evaluation results “big news”? Or…do people not want to hear what is actually happening, what the outcome really is?

Reminds me of 1984 ( George Orwell): War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength (the English Socialist Party–aka. INGSOC). Kevin Siers added, in his cartoon of Sean Spicer,  “2017 is 1984”.  Two contradictory ideas existing at the same time as correct.


Statistics is a tool that evaluators use on a regular basis. It allows evaluators to tease apart various aspects of a program. The “who” , the “what”, the “when”, maybe even the “why”. Statistics can certainly help determine if I made a difference  But how I see statistics may not be how you see them, interpret them, use them. Two people can look at a set of statistics and say they do not agree. Is that an example of alternative facts?


Everyone comes to any program with preconceived bias. You, the evaluator, want to see a difference. Preferably a statistically significant difference, not just a practical significance (although that would be nice as well).

Even if you are dealing with qualitative data, and not with quantitative data yielding statistics, you come to the program with bias. Objectivity is not an option. You wouldn’t be doing the program if you didn’t think that the program will make a difference. Yet, the individuals who have funded the program (or in some other way are the folks who get the final report) can (and do) not accept the report as it is written. That is not what they want to see/hear/read. Does that make the report alternative facts? Or is bias speaking without acknowledging that bias?

Perhaps Kierkegaard is right.

There are only two ways you can be fooled.


my .


Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 14-06-2017

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

~~Winston Churchill


“A pessimistpessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist optimist 1 is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”

~~Harry S. Truman

Two sides of the same coin? A different way to say the same thing?

Pessimist, optimist, realist?

So do you see the glass half empty–or half full?optimist-pessimist

OR are you a realist being able to refill the glass (with ice and a couple of shots of your favorite beverage)?

Evaluation is a field which includes all sorts of folks.

The optimist says that they can find a way.

The pessimist says that it isn’t likely.

The realist says it is possible and probable.

Working it out

One way to work it out is to use a logic model.

Another is to use a  theory of change.

Keep in mind that you might be wrong even if you apply either/both of the above.

(I remember a major professor of mine said that the theory may be wrong; it was.)

So sometimes, using the tools of evaluation may not get you where you want to be.

There are many approaches to learning something. For example: You can test a Hypothesis (Bill Nye the science guy says that a hypo thesis is an idea below). First, develop a plan; then you test it by gathering data. You analyze the data. And yes, there is some support for your hypothesis.

Or, you have an see an occurrence which repeats itself under various conditions.  You find that the emergent idea is dominant. So you control the situation and see if the idea emerges once again. It does!

I’m sure you can do trial and error; you can guess what the outcome will be; or you and follow what your parent did (worked for him/her, should work for you).

If you apply the scientific method  to the learning, you usually will test the hypothesis.

You will deal with humons at some point. The humon situation will be your guide.

But what if…

The people you are working with/for want it their way?

What if the end result is really a power and control issue and not one of transparent findings (good or bad).

How do you, the evaluator, address the implied (or actual) power and control.

Where does Standard III (Propriety) and the Guiding Principle D and E (Respect for People and Responsibilities for General and Public Welfare, respectively) enter into the discussion?

Out of your hands, you say? NO. Not really.

You do have a responsibility.

And an obligation.

You will have an opportunity

Does that make you a pessimist? Or an optimist? Or a realist? Only you will decide.

my  .




Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 08-06-2017

Love. Revisited.

Love is the the most radically subversive activism of all, the only thing that ever changed anyone.

~~Ann Voskamp 


Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

~~Steve Jobs


Both of these quotes speak to me. So, let me tell you a story. And then how they relate to each other.

Two stories.

I fell in love with a 4 year old autistic boy,  a long time ago. I realized early on that stability and as much certainty as possible were important to him. I arranged to care for him (I was working in a hospital at the time) whenever I was working (stability). I don’t know what happened the two days I didn’t work; I just knew that he needed to “catch up” to where he had been before I didn’t work (as much certainty as possible). Slowly, oh, ever so slowly, he recovered from his illness and he “settled down”.  I like to think he trusted me; trusted me to be there; be there for him. And I was (even though I looked after other people). Then one day he wasn’t there anymore.

I was bereft. I mourned the loss of that delicate child. I could only hope that he “made it”. I do not know.

That was when I realized that I could make a difference in the lives of emotionally disturbed children. I was in love. I would do great work “saving” emotionally disturbed children. (NOT)

Fast forward many years. I was recently out of graduate school. It was spring. And spring had arrived in a burst of color and fragrance. Of course I took advantage of this opportunity and paused; I had an epiphany. I clearly saw three items:  do good work; be a good friend; grow spiritually/personally.  I realized  that the work I was doing filled a large part of my life (although I strived for a balance). I was satisfied. I was in love. Again. And even though it wasn’t with emotionally disturbed children, I was making a difference. 

I had found my passion. I didn’t settle. I found it what mattered to me.



Today (many more years since the epiphany and the love of my life) I find myself wanting to make a difference.  Still.

I certainly can do it with evaluation. And do. Does that program have value? Did it make a difference in the lives of the target audience? I look around at the world, the country, and wonder how can I make a difference; how can I be an activist (subversive or not); how will that change any thing? Yes, I believe love trumps hate. Yes, I believe in making a difference. Yes, I believe in doing good work (or as Steve Jobs said–great work).

Does that mean I need to work at this more OR does it mean I need to give myself permission to walk away from the struggle. To pause. To enjoy the roses now that they are in bloom?


my .