Sep
22

Complexity.

I predict a bright future for complexity. Have you ever considered how complicated things can get, what with one thing always leading to another?

~~E. B. White, Quo VADIMUS? OR THE CASE FOR THE BICYCLE (Garden City. Publishing 1946)

 

Every thing is connected.

One thing does lead to another. And connections between them can be drawn. So let’s connect the dots.

In 2002, as AEA president, I chose for the theme of the meeting, Evaluation a Systematic Process that Reforms Systems.

Evaluation doesn’t stand in isolation; it is not something that is added on at the end as an afterthought.

Many program planners see evaluation that way, unfortunately. Only as an add on, at the end.

Contrary to may peoples’ belief, evaluators need to be included at the outset of the program. They also need to be included at each stage thereafter (Program Implementation, Program Monitoring, and Program Delivery; Data Management and Data Analysis; Program Evaluation Utilization).

Systems Concepts.

Shortly after Evaluation 2002, (in 2004) the Systems Evaluation Topical Interest Group was formed.

AEA published (2007) “Systems Concepts in Evaluation: A Expert Anthology” (scroll to the end). It was edited by Bob Williams and Iraj Imam (who died as this volume was going to press). To order, see this link.

This volume does an excellent job of demonstrating how evaluation and systems concepts are related.

It connects the dots.

In that volume, Gerald Midgley writes about “the intellectual development of systems field, how this has influenced practice and importantly the relevance for all this to evaluators and evaluation”. It is the pivotal chapter (according to the editors).

While it is possible to trace the idea to trace the ideas about holistic thinking back to the ancient Greeks, systems thinking is probably best attributed to the ideas of von Bertalanffy [Bertalanffy, L. von. (1950). Theory of open systems in physics and biology. Science, III: 23-29.]

I would argue that the complexity concept will go back to at least Alexander von Humboldt . (Way before von Bertalanffy.) He was an intrepid explorer and created modern environmentalism. Alexander von Humboldt lived between 1769–1859. Although environmentalism is a complex word, it really is a system. With connections. And complexity.

Suffice it to say, there are no easy answers to the problems faced by professionals today. Complex. Complicated. And one thing leading to another.

my .

Sep
14
Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 14-09-2017

Evaluability assessment.

I get my ideas to blog from a lot of places. One place I get ideas are from other blogs.

The content of this blog was Evaluability Assessment.

The blog author says that evaluability assessments tend to cover the following topics:

  • Clarity of the intervention and its objectives: Is there a logical and clear theory of change that articulates how and under what conditions intervention activities influence particular processes of change?
  • Availability of data: which data are available that can be used in assessing the merit and worth of the intervention (e.g. generated by the intervention, external data sets, policy and academic literature)
  • Stakeholder interest and intended use: to what extent is there a clear interest (and capacity) among stakeholders to use the evaluation’s findings and recommendations in strategic decision-making, program improvement, learning about what works, etc.?

What, you ask, is evaluability assessment?

You certainly can go to the blog and read what it says there. OR…You can go to Scriven’s book and read the history on page 138 .

Suffice it to say that evaluability is the extent to which they (projects and programs) can be evaluated. Scriven goes on to say: “It should be thought of as the first commandment of accountability or as the last refinement of Popper’s (Sir Karl Raimond Popper) requirement of falsifiability.

 

Sources.

I learned about evaluability assessment (EA) from Midge Smith (shown here with her husband Carl Wisler) in her book by the same name (published by Springer, search for it by title).  She says that EA is “…a diagnostic and prescriptive tool for improving programs and making evaluations more useful.” Like all tools used in evaluation, it is systematic and describes the structure of a program.

There is a newer volume  of that name. It is by Michael S. Trevisan and Tamara M. Walser (they do an AEA365 blog on that topic). It is not, unfortunately, on my shelf.  The blurb that accompanies the book (by the publisher, Sage) says: “Evaluability assessment (EA) can lead to development of sound program theory, increased stakeholder involvement and empowerment, better understanding of program culture and context, enhanced collaboration and communication, process and findings use, and organizational learning and evaluation capacity building.”

More detail than Midge offers, then her book is copyrighted in 1989.

EA is getting a lot of press lately (you may need to search for evaluability assessment when you go to AEA365).

I find it amazing how previously important things (EA) are now once again in vogue.

my .

 

 

Sep
06
Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 06-09-2017

LIBRARIES 

With them, we are amazing!

Without them, we humons are limited.

I can only speak for myself–I do not want to be limited. I am a library champion. (A library champion is someone who fosters public awareness on the extensive range of resources and services available at public, school, academic and special libraries nationwide.)

If you were to see my professional library, perhaps you would understand. (It looks like the photo above, only the shelves are white; I have four bookcases with extensions. The shelves are full.)

If you were to see my personal library, you would understand. Most of it is still in boxes.

Because I believe that literacy is important, When they were young and beginning to read, I gave four of my bookshelves to my daughters (who are now grown, although their bookshelves are still full, mostly, of books). One each is in their room; two are now in the quest room. Hence, my library is mostly still in boxes.

I’ve stopped buying books for personal use (I still get professional ones). I use the library to get hard copy. I have 13 books at home plus two book club books. I have 11 books on hold.

I have an iPad on which I have at least four books and an equal number on hold. (I read a lot.)

But libraries do so much more than provide us with books (still their most important function). They move information in new directions! And they have magic fingers on the keyboard. I would be lost without libraries.

The information to which they have access is astounding.

Libraries and evaluation.

I want to discuss my professional library. I have one whole bookcase (of seven plus shelves) which is filled with books relating to evaluation. Some books are in many editions. And that doesn’t include statistics books or measurement books or the hard-copy journals that have come over the years.

“Why?” you ask, do I have multiple versions of the same (well, almost) book, different editions? Ah. Perhaps one edition will provide the answer (to the puzzle) and the others do not. Does that mean that the answer is not relevant? No. Does that mean that the information is passe? Maybe. Maybe not. The book may be the seminal reference and needs to be sited. It may give a history that isn’t found any place else. It is important to see how the volume changes with each edition. Having multiple volumes adds value. (And the root of evaluation is value.)

Do I need all this? Probably not, especially in the age of the internet and access to all that it provides. Yet, there is something about hard copy; you know a book  (whether a paperback or not), with its binding, its smell, its feel, that cannot be duplicated on-line. Something that cannot be diminished. Something that definitely adds value, merit and worth.

 

“To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering in a great library without touching the books.” ~~Manly P. Hall

My feeling exactly.

 

 

 

Sep
01
Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 01-09-2017

Get better.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

~~Theodor Seuss Geisel

 

Dr. Seuss is a life-time favorite of mine. If he were still alive (unfortunately, he died in 1991), he would still be speaking out (however subtly) and making a difference (he was born in 1904). He opposed discrimination and isolationism and cartooned those issues between 1941-1943.

 

His comment above reminded me about why I’m an evaluator. I do care. A lot.

Yes, I like to solve puzzles.  I like to figure things out. Yes, I really like to make life better.

I use science. And scientific principles. And data. To get answers.

So I have to wonder, how can anyone go through this life without that support? (You know, the support of science and answers provided by data.)

Statistics

Yes, I know…statistics lie (this saying “statistics lie” is often attributed to Mark Twain) and liars use statistics, depending on what the statistic is representing and who is using it. Or figures don’t lie; liars do figure may be more accurate (used by Carroll D. Wright ). (Oh and while I’m talking about statistics, Hans Rosling  died in February [2017]; a major loss.)

There is a lot of press about “big data” these days. And artificial intelligence. Is this the future?  Given that I hear what sound like competing stories about the future I can only wonder.

Even though I care. A lot. Perhaps as one source said, “…is it just a bit of social theatre we perform to make ourselves feel virtuous, useful, and in the right?” Maybe I’m just feeling virtuous and useful.

Maybe I only think I can change the world.

Gloria Anzaldua , an American scholar of  Chicana cultural theory who died in 2004, is quoted as saying, “I change myself; I change the world.”

So because I care (Seuss) and I am changing myself (Anzaldua), perhaps life will get better. Perhaps.

I will stick around and find out. And remember.