Good Thinking
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Good Thinking

Evaluation is pushing boundaries for today’s challenges

Over the last 7 years, having intentionally built a business that blurs the lines between strategy, design, and evaluation, it is with great joy that I have watched the profession of evaluation bud and blossom well beyond the traditional Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning box. Some highlights include:

The current conversations at annual conferences, webinars, and on-line community convenings are bursting with boundary pushing and wildly uncomfortable ideas.Notable to me, is that many of the new spaces evaluation has pushed into include strong roles in design processes and strategy-setting.

I want to lift up just two examples that leave me feeling proud to be an evaluator and excited for what’s ahead. I’ve tried not to be too technical. If I lose you, let them wash over you and pique your interest.

Measuring Love

Shiree Teng and Sammy Nuñez wrote a brown paper on Measuring Love. Truly, the artwork and visual beauty of this paper is reason enough to pick it up and savor it. Within the authors offer a heart-full and compelling argument for the power and reality of love and its place within the process of evaluation. They are explicit in calling out white supremacy and colonization and naming how it shows up in evaluation.

“To reverse the colonized, white supremacist culture of “knowing,” where only the mind-knowing way is valued and maintains power dynamics that accrue value based on white dominant culture, we must actively value and integrate ways of knowing that are deeply ingrained from our ancestors: prioritize connections and relationships, emergence, belonging, the mystery of things that are not “knowable,” and our own being. We are valuators, not e-valuators.”

Replacing the OECD DAC Criteria

Michael Quinn Patton recently published** a bold argument for replacing OECD DAC criteria (relevance, coherence, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, and sustainability) which are ubiquitously applied to all interventions to determine their value. By suggesting these criteria change, he goes to the root of what we value through the act of evaluation and offers criteria to bring us forward into a more transformative response to the global climate crisis. Wow.

“Evaluators need to engage and take seriously the global emergency — and do so with a sense of urgency and transformational scale. The DAC criteria are intentionally technical and neutral. . . They are old news. . . The criteria offered here are values-based. They make it clear that evaluators have a stake in transformation and manifest our stake in the future of humanity by addressing transformation explicitly and directly. . . Transformation-focused criteria treat evaluation as part of the trans- formation process and evaluators as having skin in the game (Patton, 2020), the game being the future of humanity on Earth.”

**This is behind an academic paywall. I apologize for putting something out there that is exclusive in this way, it perpetuates white supremacy via control of knowledge production and access. The content is a vital discussion. IF a non-paywall version becomes available, I promise to share.

Michael Quinn Patton, “Evaluation Criteria for Evaluating Transformation: Implications for the Coronavirus Pandemic and the Global Climate Emergency”. American Journal of Evaluation, November 18, 2020.



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Anna Martin

Anna Martin

Evaluator, Social Worker, Facilitator, Complexity Coach, curious mischief maker and co-founder of Picture Impact.