Evaluation is a practice of applying a critical lens to what we’ve done and created and assessed what value it brings into the world. Its value can’t be overstated if we look and listen.
Evaluation is not a concept that many people embrace with affection. Too often I see it used and discussed in a way that is used to control, criticize, or judge a product without context. While evaluation activities do involve discernment, I am reluctant to use the word judge much in discussing evaluation with my clients, trainees and those unfamiliar with the practice.
Why? Most of us have been judged enough. Too often, it’s judgement based on criteria we don’t have a say in. It’s a hot word.
Yet, evaluation allows us to see the merit of our work. It provides a means to assess what kind of value is has. It’s also a way to see if what we are doing has significance to those we seek to affect through our work. Collectively, these qualities of merit, value (or worth), and significance set the foundation for evaluation. When we evaluate, we are asking questions about what we’re doing and what influence it has.
How will we move the world?
What will be our lasting contribution to the work, the people, and the environment in which we spend our time?
How do we know if our efforts in life are adding value and creating benefit over harm?
Are we on the right track?
These are evaluative questions. They also track our influence on the world. Maybe not the entire world, but the world connected to our individual, shared, and collective actions. Our audience for an evaluation might be just us. It could be a community. What evaluations do is plot our place in our world and whether, how, and to what degree we influence things.
That’s an important set of questions. With present day threats to our health and wellbeing coupled with the enormous opportunities we have to make a difference, the need to do well with what we have is high. The chance to do harm is also high.
Knowing where we are and what we’re doing is such a great gift if we give wisely.
So next time you hear the world evaluate, get curious. Ask questions. Tell the stories with what you find from asking and answering those questions and maybe you’ll move the world.
Helping people to learn from what they do and do it to the best capacity they can is what I do. If you want to talk about evaluation and need help doing it, reach out and let’s chat about how you can gain greater value from it all.