Last weekend, I was in Florida visiting my daughter at Eckerd College.  The College was offering an Environmental Film Festival and I had the good fortune to see Green Fire, a film about Aldo Leopold and the land ethic.   I had seen it at OSU and was impressed because it was not all doom and gloom; rather it celebrated Aldo Leopold as one of the three leading and  early conservationists  (the other two are John Muir and Henry David Thoreau ).  Dr. Curt Meine, who narrates the film and is a conservation biologist, was leading the discussion again; I had heard him at OSU.  At the showing early, I was able to chat with him about the film and its effects.  I asked him how he knew he was being effective.  His response was to tell me about the new memberships in the Foundation, the number of showings, and the size of the audience seeing the film.  Appropriate responses for my question.  What I really wanted to know was how did he know he was making a difference.  That is a different question; one which talks about change.  Change is what programs like Green Fire is all about.  It is what Aldo Leopold was all about (read Sand County Almanac to understand Leopold’s position.)


Change is what evaluation is all about.  But did I ask the right question?  How could I have phrased it differently to get at what change had occurred in the viewers of the film?  Did new memberships in the Foundation demonstrate change?  Knowing what question to ask is important for program planners as well as evaluators.  There are often multiple levels of questions that could be asked–individual, programmatic, organizational, regional, national, global.  Are they all equally important?  Do they provide a means forgathering pertinent data?  How are you going to use these data once you’ve gathered them?  How carefully do you think about the questions you ask when you craft your logic model?  When you draft a survey?  When you construct questions for focus groups?  Asking the right question will yield relevant answers.  It will show you what difference you’ve made in the lives of your target audience.


Oh, and if you haven’t see the film, Green Fire, or read the book, Sand County Almanac–I highly recommend them.

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