Evaluating from the heart - What would it look like if we all treated evaluation as noble work?

The latest EvalCafé podcast, Evaluating From the Heart really made me think and reflect about what it is to be an evaluator, and the role of funders and our sometimes single-minded focus on outcomes in evaluation.

During the podcast, there’s a point in the discussion that the guest, Nora Murphy Johnson, co-founder of Creative Evaluation talks about the possible harm we can do with evaluations and how principles-focused evaluation offers a way to name our values, and translate these values into guiding principles - that tell us how to act, especially when we’re unsure how to proceed. These principles can help people work together when the way forward is uncertain. Nora says “principles are values translated into action, so we can never get lost… if we’re accountable to principles as much as we’re accountable to outcomes, then we can keep finding our way back to the right path” (13:40 in the podcast).

Michael Quinn Patton wrote Creative Evaluation in 1981, and writes in it that evaluation is noble work. Nora shares that this got her thinking, if she did evaluation as noble calling, what would that be, what would that look like? For her the answer is evaluation that is grounded in systems change, for justice and equity, is guided by principles that are rooted in values and that infuse art throughout to ask our hearts and souls to show up and not just our minds. What would it look like if we all treated evaluation as noble work?

The podcast closes out with the host, Carolyn Camman reading out last paragraph in the revised Calling of Creative Evaluators. It is a very inspiring calling, one that I will print out, and read again and again when I am struggling to see the way forward. Thank you for these inspiring words.

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