Coping With The Evaluation Blues

Monday, January 6th, 2014

I got the evaluation blues,

I got the evaluation blues,

On top of every other thing,

I gotta show them what I do.


Evaluation getting you down? Can’t figure out how to wrap your head around what needs to get assessed or how to get your staff on board? You need to find a way to demonstrate effectiveness, and you need to find a way to do it that works for your organization or community.


But, your staff are already overburdened with paperwork,

And you’re worried that the results you’ve achieved aren’t the same ones you said you would originally achieve,

And you think evaluation is boring and alienating,

And your business is overextended with other change efforts,

And, and, and….


There’s lots of ways to make an evaluation process more meaningful and useful for your organization. Here are some tips for coating that bitter pill and making it easier to swallow:

  • Call it something else. Evaluation is storytelling. The purpose of evaluation is to help you share and learn from what happened. Of course, your story is rooted in actual data and not fiction. That’s what makes it so compelling.
  • Make it interactive. Don’t let your evaluator go off in a corner and crunch numbers on their own. Good evaluation involves collaborative processes and dialogue.  Participation can be incorporated into all stages of evaluation, from instrument development, to data gathering and analysis, to sharing findings.
  • Tie it to other change efforts. It’s time for strategy planning or re-branding in your organization. Evaluation processes help you get crystal clear about the context of your work, your mission, unique services, and the outcomes that you can reasonably expect to achieve.
  • Put your right brain to work. Incorporate creative processes –poetry, visual art, music, dance, and theater– into different phases of your evaluation.  Arts-based evaluation takes findings and makes them accessible to all. It can breathe life into the most technical of reports.
  • Try a different question.  You’re in the beginning phases of developing your new program, and it’s too early to be looking for impact. Consider utilizing a developmental evaluation approach instead. Developmental evaluators work side by side with program staff, supporting innovators in staying on target with evolving goals.

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