Monthly Archives: October 2013

Evaluation Colleagues, Mentors, and Friends

drbarbarasugland(Dr. Barbara Sugland 1960-2010)  As an internal evaluation director at a foundation, I no longer “practice” evaluation in the same way as when I was a consultant in my pre-philanthropy years in Washington, D.C.  I often worry that my skills can get a little rusty when my daily role is one of managing, translating, organizing, and planning resources for evaluations and other knowledge and data-related tasks.  I rely greatly on consultants and colleagues to keep me current (and honest) in how evaluation should be practiced.

I am grateful for the many consultants and colleagues who have helped me,  pushed my knowledge, and strengthened my approach.  ORS-Impact (Jane, Anne, Sarah, and team), Innovation Network (Johanna, Veena, Ehren, Ann, Kat), Center for Evaluation Innovation (Julia and Tanya), Community Science (David, Kien, Scott), TCC Group (Pete, Jared and Deepti), and Aspen Institute (Anne, Andrea and Pat).  And without a doubt all my Casey and HCF colleagues, especially Audrey Jordan.

And as many have noted about the recent AEA conference, our field’s best evaluators are often accessible and generous with their advice and interest in others’ work.  Eleanor Chelimsky was my first “teacher” and the GAO PEMD evaluation reports from the 1980s and 1990s were my first textbooks when I began as an evaluator in 1990 before attending grad school.  Beverly Parsons, Bob Williams, David Fetterman, Michael Patton, Hallie Preskill, Ricardo Millet, Patti Patrizi, Anne Kubisch, Prue Brown, and many others have always been considerate and generous with their time, feedback, comments, advice and even humor.

These colleagues continue to stimulate my work but I still spend part of every day (not just every workday) thinking about and missing the wisdom, ethics, commitment, and friendship of two brilliant evaluators who are no longer with us.  Dr. Mary Achatz and Dr. Barbara Sugland were two evaluators who taught me much about evaluation methods but even more about the purpose and mission of evaluation to contribute to improving the lives of the most vulnerable and driving towards social justice and equity.  The American Evaluation Association’s Guiding Principles for Evaluators assert respect for people, integrity, honesty, and responsibility for the public welfare–and these women were exemplars of these principles.  My own knowledge and practice were greatly influenced and informed by these two extremely modest yet enormously skilled professionals who gave the most attention and respect to the least powerful resulting in more genuine, appropriate, accurate, and influential evaluations.  They both also lived as guides, teachers, mentors and coaches and there are many others who can attest to their heart and skills.  And they are friends I miss every day.

See pages 20-21 in Leila Fiester’s case study on Plain Talk for an example of Mary’s respectful approach to working in and with community

Hear Barbara’s words on supporting and empowering our youth especially youth of color

And the Dr. Barbara Sugland Foundation dedicated to continuing her legacy (where I am proud to be a director)

I think I blogged before “blog” was even a word

With the helpful advice and prompting by the excellent American Evaluation Association > #eval13 blogging panel of Ann, Chris, Susan, and Sheila, I am reinvigorating my Twitter efforts into longer blog postings on evaluation.

The low-pressure ease and comfort of occasional tweets filled what little bandwidth I thought I had left with a major relocation and job change. But now that I feel more settled and wanting to connect more with my evaluation colleagues now thousands of miles away in ANY direction, the gentle yet firm encouragement of our EVAL bloggers convinced me to go ahead. Which also reminded me that starting with my first personal computer I purchased in 1993 (leading to the first time I fell in love with a South Dakotan–an extremely patient Gateway tech support guy who stayed on the phone with me for 6 straight hours while I repaired my own broken hard drive), I had started writing overly long and somewhat sarcastic (snarky?) movie and restaurant reviews I distributed to friends on my free DC community email account. History is not clear if the term “blog” was invented or first used in 1994, 1997, or 1999, but I feel at least that I have some old skills I might be able to revive.