Last week, I found myself in the mile-high city of Denver at the American Evaluation Association’s (AEA) annual conference, Evaluation 2014. If someone had told me a year ago that I would be geeking out on all things evaluation, I would not have believed them. Not only was I inundated with hundreds of workshop options, but I was surrounded by evaluators. These people get REALLY excited about evaluation. And it rubbed off on me. From workshops on empowerment evaluation to sessions on building organizational capacity for social change, I was pretty much blown away by the amount of excellent evaluation work being done around the world.
Here are a few gems I picked up while there:
- Evaluating is about letting go. It’s really tempting to want to be in control as an evaluator, but it’s important to remember that evaluation is about engaging with and learning from others, and letting the community members steer the ship.
- Everyone has a voice. It may seem like an inefficient way of working, but everyone should have input in the evaluation process. It may take more time, but it really works out in the long run.
- Inclusion is key. It may be difficult to understand how and what certain people and groups can add to the process, but we need to make sure we are including and giving voice to all people and groups.
- Respect the community knowledge. Being respectful of the knowledge, experience, and collective wisdom that members of the community you are working with bring to the table. And be respectful of local culture and customs.
- Document the process. Taking pictures and writing things down is important for capturing the evaluation process – both for the community/group and the evaluator.
- No technology? No problem. In our high tech world, it’s easy to forget about the fact that technology isn’t for everyone (and not every community has access to technology). Work with what you’ve got. Flip chart, markers, and tape work great.
- On the other hand, don’t be afraid to use technology. If you have access to tech tools, make sure they are user-friendly, inexpensive or free, and in line with the principles of empowerment evaluation.
- Share your data. Speaking of technology, there are free tools that can help make your evaluation data visually appealing. In addition to a written report, you can use tools like Visual.ly and Info.gram to create visuals of your data.
I look forward to exploring the AEA’s website over the next few months to check out information from workshops I was not able to attend, and I’ll be sharing more lessons learned in future posts.