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Why do religious organizations find evaluation work so mysterious? What do they need to help them appreciate the importance of evaluation and to do evaluation well?
I asked these questions when I first began coaching new grantees of the religion division of Lilly Endowment Inc. As I sat alongside grantees, I often noticed a hesitation and reluctance about embarking on evaluation. It wasn’t as if evaluation was a new idea. Rather, I realized that the mere word “evaluation” raised less-than-pleasant memories that limited their openness to this work. Grantees wondered: Is my work being judged? Will someone form an opinion about the merit or quality of our program?
Memory - Evaluation - Experience - Moment - Someone
Indeed, how many of us hold a memory about an evaluation experience gone bad or a moment of being judged or of having someone else’s opinion supersede our own?
At the heart of the word “evaluation” is “value” -- to find the value of -- and this notion guides my evaluation coaching work to this day. At its most effective, evaluation is an activity of valuing and learning from one’s work, not a judgment. Principles such as collaboration, inquiry, learning, curiosity and mutuality guide such an approach to evaluation.
Projects - Aim - World - Difference - People
This evaluative lens recognizes that projects are conceived with the aim of creating good in the world and ultimately making a tangible difference in people’s faith lives. It also changes the tone and character of the questions one asks:
How is our program/project making a difference in the lives of young people, pastoral leaders, teachers, students or other target audience? How do we know?
Conditions - Result - Program - Knowledge - Actions
What conditions will change as a result of our program? What new knowledge is being gained? What new actions are being taken as a result of our program, and why? What new attitudes are being formed?
Such purposeful questions engage stakeholders’ curiosity and allow them to...
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