“Humans are social animals for good reason. Without collaboration, there is no survival. It was not possible to defeat a Woolley Mammoth, build a secure structure, or care for children while hunting without a team effort. It’s more true now than then. Our reliance on each other grows as societies became more complex, interconnected, and specialized. Connection is a prerequisite for survival, physically and emotionally.”
This statement, which I found on Harold Jarche ‘s blog, applies to evaluation as much as it applies to the example provided by Psychology Today.
Evaluation is a collaborative effort; a team effort, a social effort. Without the collaboration, evaluation lacks much. I’m not sure that survival is dependent on evaluation and collaborative effort; perhaps. The evaluator may know all about evaluation and yet not be able to solve the problem presented by the client because the evaluator doesn’t know about the topic needing to be evaluated. The evaluator may know about something similar to and different from what the client needs and yet, not know about the specific problem. Let me give you an example.
I’ve done a lot of evaluation in the natural resources area and as a result, I’ve learned much about various natural resource topics, including horticulture, plant science, crop science, marine science. I do not know much about potatoes. A while back, a colleague called me and asked if I could/would serve as the evaluator on a ZEBRA CHIP project. Before I said, Sure, I asked about ZEBRA CHIP. Apparently, it is a potato disease transmitted by bacteria carrying psyllid that is causing much economic devastation among growers. It shows up best when the potatoes are made into chips (hence the name). It looks like this: . To me, it isn’t particularly stripped like the animal which offers its name, yet it doesn’t look like potato chips I’m used to seeing. I”m told that there is an unpleasant flavor to the chips as well. I knew a lot about growing things, not about potatoes, even though I’ve worked with potato growers before, just not about this disease.
So, I said sure, only to discover that I have 11 lines in which to write a cogent evaluation section for the work that Extension will be doing (if the grant is funded). If the grant is funded, it will be a five year effort. A continuation actually, which brings me full circle–a collaboration of multiple universities, multiple disciplines, multiple investigators. So what could I say cogently in 11 lines? I suggested that perhaps looking at intention and confidence would be appropriate because we (remember, I said, “Sure”) would not be able to measure actual behavior change. And to overcome the psyllids and eradicate this problem (not unlike the spotted wing drosophila which is affecting the soft fruits of the NW, specifically blueberries), we would need to get as close to behavior change as possible once the teaching has occurred. How can social media be used here? Good question–something to explore. At what level of Maslow’s hierarchy is this collaboration? Survival, sure. Somehow I don’t think Maslow was focused on economic survival.
Within the last 24 hours I’ve had two experiences that remind me of how tenuous our connection is to others.
Wikipedia says the phrase of “dog days” refers to the sultry (read: HOT) days of summer, typically July and August in the northern hemisphere. In Oregon, it is definitely August. It was 100.4 yesterday; 96 the day before. I didn’t sleep well, even with fans and cool evenings (low 60s). This is the hottest summer I’ve experienced in the 16 years I’ve been in Oregon–there were 10 days of hot weather in May, June, and July; and now so far in August. The Dog days are also when the star Sirius can be seen (assuming there is no cloud cover, a common phenomenon in Oregon–if not the winter rainy season, then summer thunderstorms.) Dog days were thought to be when “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man (sic), among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813 (A Compendious Analysis of the Calendar; Illustrated with Ecclesiastica, Historical, and Classical Anecdotes 2 volumes). Read the rest of this entry »
What? So what? Now what?
Sounds like an evaluation problem.
King and Stevahn (in press) tells us the first query requires thoughtful observation of a situation; the second query a discussion of possible options and implications of those options, and the third query calls for the creation of a list of potential next steps.
Yet these are the key words for “adaptive action” (If you haven’t looked at the web site, I suggest you do.) One quote that is reflective of adaptive action is, “Adaptive Action reveals how we can be proactive in managing today and influencing tomorrow.”( David W. Jamieson, University of St. Thomas). Adaptive action can help you
Evaluation is a proactive (usually) activity (oh, I know that sometimes evaluation is flying by the seat of your pants and is totally reactive). People are now recognizing that evaluation will benefit them, their programs, and their organizations and that it isn’t personal (although that fear is still out there).
Although the site is directed towards leadership in organizations, the key questions are evaluative. You can’t determine “what” without evidence (data); you can’t determine “so what” unless you have a plan (logic model), and you can’t think about “now what” unless you have an outcome that you can move toward. These questions are evaluative in contemporary times because there are no simple problems any more. (Panarchy approaches similar situations using a similar model .) Complex situations are facing program people and evaluators all the time. Using adaptive action may help. Panarchy may help (the book is called Panarchy by Gunderson and Hollings .)
Just think of adaptive action as another model of evaluation.
Many of you have numerous lists for summer reading (NY Times, NPR, Goodreads, Amazon, others…). My question is what are you reading to further your knowledge about evaluation? Perhaps you are; perhaps you’re not. So I’m going to give you one more list …yes, it is evaluative.
If you want something qualitative: Qualitative Data Analysis by Matthew B. Miles, A. Michael Huberman, and Johnny Saldana. It is the new 3rd edition which Sage (the publisher) commissioned. A good thing, too, as both Miles and Huberman are no longer able to do a revision. My new go-to book.
If you want something on needs assessment: Bridging the Gap Between Asset/Capacity Building and Needs Assessment by James W. Altschuld. Most needs assessments start with what is lacking (i.e., needed); this proposes that an assessment start with what is present (assets) and build from there, and in the process, meeting needs.
If you want something on higher education: College (Un)bound by Jeff Selingo. The state of higher education and some viable alternatives by a contributing editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Yes, it is evaluative.
Most of these I’ve mentioned before. I’ve read the above. I recommend them.
Recently I came across some old note of mine, from some meeting several years ago. I though it would be useful in my writing so I saved it; actually there were two notes that were similar in content. They both relate to blogging, although at the time I didn’t know I would be blogging.
I lump them all under the title of taking a stand, although stance would probably be more descriptive.
The notes are these:
The US has been a country for 238 years. A long time. Perhaps it is an opportunity to reflect on what are the rights, privileges, and obligations of citizenship. Perhaps it is just another holiday. Perhaps it is just a time for blueberry pie and peach ice cream. Perhaps it is a…fill in the blank.
I’m not feeling particularly patriotic. I am feeling very evaluative. Recently I viewed a map indicating that on a US passport an individual could travel to 172 different countries. The only country passports which were more powerful (i.e., able to visit more countries) were UK, Finland and Sweden. I wonder to where (what country) can’t I travel on my US passport? That question requires evidence. That is evaluative. I value my US passport. My girls and I travel with them even though driver’s license would be easier. (Being able to fly to Paris at a Read the rest of this entry »
Recently, I received the following comment: “In today’s world it’s virtually impossible to keep up with facebook, twitter, news, tv, movies email, texts, etc.”
It was in response to a blog post about making a difference. How do you know? Given that most of what was suggested happens in the virtual world, the play on words is interesting. How is it impossible–because there is too much information? because you are too distracted by the virtual part of all the information and get lost? because virtuality it is not clearly understood? because of something else? I personally find I can get lost when I spend all day on line (virtual). It isn’t real, actually. I have no sense of what is happening and what isn’t happening. Even with the feeds from news lines, I find I have to double check my facts. Yet even as I say this, the virtual is expanding (go here). I have heard about Web 2.0; hadn’t heard about IoE (Internet of Everything)…the CEO of Cisco (John Chambers) stated that the IoE depends on the architecture, the systems integration. Is virtual the way of the world? It certainly isn’t the future any more; it is now. I have to ask, though, what about people…Given that much evaluation is now being done with the use of virtual tools, are we really understanding what difference is being made? Or are there just connections?
The individual continued with the comment by saying, “Keep up your small voice. Some are listening.” Those “listening” are certainly reflected in the number of comments I received on the posts about making a difference in the last two days (over 45). This may certainly be a way of engaging; I know it is outreaching. It is only my small voice; it is rewarding to know that some are listening/reading. Even if they only stay a short while.
Had a comment a while back on analyzing survey data…hmm…that is a quandary as most surveys are done on line (see Survey monkey, among others).
If you want to reach a large audience (because your population from which you sampled is large), you will probably use an on-line survey. The on-line survey companies will tabulate the data for you. Can’t guarantee that the tabulations you get will be what you want, or will tell you want you want to know. Typically (in my experience), you can get an Excel file which can be imported into a soft ware program and you can run your own analyses, separate from the on line analyses. Read the rest of this entry »
To quote Annie Leonard, the word sustainability “gets thrown around all the time now and it’s not always clear what is intended.” She goes on to talk about the UN World Commission on Environment and Development definition of sustainable development as “…meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” That is a good definition, I think. Yet it is missing something which (according to Leonard) are equity and justice. Robert Gilman defines sustainability as “…equity over time”. She says (and I agree), quoting the Center for Sustainable Communities, that sustainability “consider(s) the whole instead of the specific. Sustainability emphasizes relationships rather than pieces in isolation.”
Now, given that evaluation to be effective must look at the whole (here is a good example of when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts); and
given that evaluation works to find out information that will benefit both the current and future generations; and
given that evaluation works to determine what difference was made in people’s lives, it seems to me that there is a relationship here that needs to be acknowledged.
A colleague of mine works in youth development and loves the job. My colleague has to determine the value of the program; the program needs to be evaluated. Yet, if the work is only for the program (i.e., the pieces in isolation) not the whole, what good is it that my colleague loves the job? The relationship between the youth involved and the bigger picture is truly more than can probably be captured in any evaluation. Still, the evaluation needs to be planned to consider that, even if the resources are limited (that is the “probably” above).
So yes, evaluation has something to learn from sustainability. Certainly sustainability can learn from evaluation (and economics, and equity, and ecology…).
I’ve been, once again, getting comments about making a difference. I thought I’d post some of those comments (I’ve copied and pasted comments so the spelling is as it appears in the original text):
…every blog post makes a difference in a way or in another. You can answer at your questions just seeing how many comments are here, how many people are interested in answering you. I think you are a good person, and everything said by a good person is always a life’s lesson to keep in mind. Thank you for every helpful information, good job!
It may be a temporary difference – i.e. limited on the time, but of course that at least for some seconds your writing are touching the life’s of all your readers.
I think the best measure of the effectiveness of a blog are the number of shares it gets, as people that found something useful in it tend to want to share with others.
…I have written quite a bit about this topic and challenge that bloggers face and the bottom line is that you really can’t measure the value. Sure I think asking for responses like you did might help you see a bit of it, but the reality is 99.9% of people will never comment. As such, we as bloggers have to remember that each pageview is a real person who was on our site and who was impacted by what we wrote!
My question: are blogs engaging readers or are they only outreach, even if the blog is read?
P.S. I also got a lot of comments about my analytics post…for next time.
Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). NY: UN World Commission on Environment and Development. http://www.un-documents.net/our-common-future.pdf
Gilman, R., Director, Context Institute.
Center for Sustainable Communities is quoted in a variety of places: http://sustainablesonoma.org/keyconcepts/sustainability.html; http://isocs-sustainability.wikispaces.com, among others.