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Stop Exhausting People...and 5 other tips for an energizing evaluation practice

Updated: Mar 10

Honesty time, who is actually that excited about evaluation?

A man hunched over his laptop computer rubbing his eyes in frustration

Jennica, put your hand down, I can see it from here.

It takes effort to set solid goals, map out a way to reflect on progress towards those goals, deal with the realization that maybe those goals or the steps taken to reach those goals weren't great, identify lessons learned, adapt, and try again. Effort, energy, and enthusiasm are in short supply. People are exhausted. And, fair enough.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, evaluations were hard to prioritize. Now, rallying excitement for another Zoom meeting or survey is a tall order. Right now, organizations are scrambling to finish evaluations while competing with summer. Kiddos are home from school. Staff are stretched thin covering shifts for their colleagues on vacation. People move. There is a surge in demand for services. Weather is becoming more unpredictable by the minute. And hopefully, everyone has a chance to ignore their email and relax.

There are a million reasons to ignore evaluation and hope it goes away because it's just not the right time.

And also...any time could be the right time for evaluation. The key is honouring everyone's starting points and capacity by scaffolding a reasonable evaluation around what people can feasibly do well (or well enough).

5 things we do to make evaluation fulfilling, rather than depleting:

1. Start where people are at

Not everyone loves evaluation. For some, the word evaluation can bring back memories of terrible performance reviews at work or school. Folks worry that evaluators will watch them, judge their work, and report failures to a funder.

We start our evaluations by figuring out the emotional and energetic tone of the group. Have people had bad experiences before? What would it take for this to be a positive experience? Then, we (a) bring our nerdy enthusiasm because we love what we do, and (b) make space for our clients to show up with whatever energy they have (or don't have). Over time, we work to build excitement by addressing those initial fears. It doesn't have to be all sunshine and stock images of white women blissfully eating yogurt from day one.

2. Do less