From the beginning to the end of working with a client, we try to bring high energy to the evaluation process, making it something the client looks forward to instead of dreads. I remember a client I worked with over a decade ago…on her first day at her new job, she was given my business card and told to call me because I could help her. We scheduled a day for me to come up and work together so evaluation would be part of the way they did business from the very beginning. She was so nervous about an EVALUATOR (scary, evil, mean people that they are!) was coming, that she made herself sick the night before my visit. After she spent the day with me, she realized I wasn’t scary at all, she had actually learned some things, and she was looking forward to our next time together. Now that’s a successful visit in my book!
While we consciously work to make evaluation fun and exciting, here are some simple ways that we have done that…
We are not afraid to show our enthusiasm for evaluation and data! If you’ve ever been at a meeting, small or large (yes, even a room with hundreds of people in it), with me where they talk about evaluation or data, you’ll hear a loud “WOO HOO!” when evaluation or data is mentioned. It’s usually the point in the presentation that eyes have glazed over because most people are on overload by the time the evaluation conversation comes around, so I yell with excitement to help remind people that evaluation can be exciting (and, sometimes, to wake people up). You never know when that enthusiasm will result in someone (thanks, Chris Lysy) drawing a cartoon inspired by you!
We have a sense of humor in whatever we’re doing! You’ve heard a little about Camp iEval in a previous post. That’s a retreat we do several times a year with 21st Century Community Learning Centers program directors, where we come together and review data and evaluation findings, conduct professional development around hot topics that have either emerged from the data or been requested by sites, and share and learn across programs. We also have a lot of fun while doing it. We’ve given out silly awards (like “Miss Direction” and “Pressure Cooker”) and done crazy team building activities (like building bridges with toothpicks and marshmallows), all interspersed with real learning and meaningful personal growth. I like to give a small gift to the project directors each year, and one year we gave them each a blanket with iEval on it…poking fun at ourselves because the temperature in the rooms where we hold Camp iEval is often pretty chilly…you just have to roll with it.
We use resources we can find and put our own goofy twists on them! We also previously mentioned Roger Miranda’s children’s book called Eva the Evaluator. If you haven’t purchased that book, it’s wonderful! We’ve given it out to many clients. It’s a fun way to explain what an evaluator does…and my favorite explanation is SUPERHERO! We took it one step further, with Roger’s approval, and made his book into a five-minute video that we showed at several trainings we have done. By putting ourselves out there, dressy in silly costumes and trying to act, it helped humanize us with current and potential clients, so people are not as fearful of evaluation as they may have previously been. Kelley and I even performed a live interpretation of the book, but that was a one-time only show!
DR. TACKETT’S USEFUL TIP: Evaluators are people too. You do not have to be stuffy or flaunt advanced degrees around in order for clients to take your work seriously. In fact, if you are more approachable, your clients are more likely to relate to you on a personal level and work with you to make better use of evaluation findings!