EvaluationLive! Engaging the Evaluation Experience

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Washington Evaluators Brown Bag
by Melanie Hwalek
September 12, 2013

The evaluation is so “ho-hum.” People aren’t actively engaged. They’re not seeing the evaluation experience as useful. They don’t seem to care about the results. What is wrong? EvaluationLive! is a framework that describes the gestalt of an evaluation experience characterized by a sense of urgency, excitement, and hunger for learning for both the stakeholders and the evaluator. EL! asserts that an engaging evaluation experience will occur when certain things are present in the evaluator, the client, and the relationship between them.

Melanie Hwalek is CEO and founder of SPEC Associates, a non-profit program evaluation and process improvement organization with a national reach that is headquartered in Detroit, Michigan. SPEC Associates is distinguished as the first evaluation organization to be highlighted for its exemplary practice in the American Journal of Evaluation. Melanie received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Wayne State University in 1980 and has been practicing program evaluation ever since. After more than 30 years of evaluation practice and directing more than 200 program evaluations, Melanie and colleague Mary Williams (former director of evaluation at Lumina Foundation and private evaluation practitioner) conceived of EvaluationLive! as a way of understanding why some evaluation experiences are simply “ho hum” and others generate what Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow” – defined as “a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work.” EvaluationLive! argues that when a skilled evaluator and an experienced social programmer co-create a learning environment where each brings their respective skills and knowledge equally to the table, flow-like experiences happen. Melanie’s presentation focuses on describing the elements of EvaluationLive! with audience discussions about what evaluators can do to bring more of their evaluations to life.

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EvaluationLive! Engaging the Evaluation Experience

  1. 1. EvaluationLive! Engaging the evaluation experience What’s an evaluator to do? The evaluation is so “hohum.” People aren’t actively engaged. They’re not seeing the evaluation experience as useful. They don’t seem to care about the results. What is wrong? EvaluationLive! is a framework that describes the gestalt of an evaluation experience characterized by a sense of urgency, excitement, and hunger for learning for both the stakeholders and the evaluator. EL! asserts that an engaging evaluation experience will occur when certain things are present in the evaluator, the client, and the relationship between them. Elements of an EvaluationLive! Evaluator Capacity the evaluator is credible, culturally humble, and knows methodologies, measurement and management. Content expertise the evaluator has or acquires sufficient knowledge about the topic or intervention being evaluated to make meaningful interpretations of the findings and to have smart conversations with stakeholders. Flexibility the evaluator modifies the evaluation design as the need dictates and provides stakeholders with meaningful information at the right time, even if this means accommodating unanticipated deadlines. Communication skills the evaluator is adept at asking good questions, managing conversations, teaching, presenting, listening and writing. A learner attitude the evaluator is as much a learner as s/he expects clients to be, learning about both the program being evaluated and how to improve his/her own evaluation skills. EvaluationLive! Model Rev. 06-07-13 Page 1 of 2
  2. 2. Elements of an EvaluationLive! Client Embraces learning the client (organization) is interested in learning about its work, values taking time to pause and reflect, and truly appreciates less than perfect data and program results. Drives questioning the stakeholders co-create the evaluation questions with the evaluator and constantly want to ask more questions. Champions the evaluation someone among the stakeholders, usually the person who commissions the evaluation, is a champion for the evaluation. The champion understands the value of evaluation, can anticipate what information would be useful, can put the right information in front of the right people at the right time, and can motivate the organization to pause and reflect on its work. Elements of an EvaluationLive! Evaluator-Client relationship Trust both the evaluator and the client/champion truly believe that they are in each other’s corner, that they can reveal their struggles without repercussion, and that nothing about the evaluation findings will “leak” or be revealed without the client’s knowledge and approval. Equality the champion, stakeholders and evaluator are all in the relationship to learn. They are all experts in their own way and recognize/respect this in each other. Accommodation the evaluator makes every effort to meet the needs of the stakeholders, while the client/champion recognizes that evaluation takes time and resources and works with the evaluator to make certain that the demands of the evaluation do not go beyond the resources available. Follow on Twitter @evaluationlive LinkedIn Group Evaluationlive! Copyright © 2012 by SPEC Associates May be copied and shared with proper attribution to the author. Evaluators wishing to collaborate on the study of EL! should contact Melanie Hwalek at mhwalek@specassociates.org or by calling 313-964-0500. .

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