Today we have a guest post from Director of Idaho’s Legislative Office of Performance Evaluations and all around great guy Rakesh Mohan. The post is his, I just added the cartoons.
Do you know what happens when I tell someone that I’m an evaluator? I get a blank look, because people do not know what an evaluator does.
So I say that I’m a program evaluator. And they think I’m a computer programmer. Of course, it does not help that I look like and talk like many computer programmers who are in this country from India.
How can we as evaluators influence change if people don’t even know who we are?
Teachers, accountants, physicians, engineers, and social workers do not need to explain to anyone what their professions are all about – but we evaluators do.
The reason people do not know who we are is because we evaluators generally talk only among ourselves at evaluation conferences. This is certainly true for AEA conference, which I have attended every year since 1994.
At AEA conferences, we generally have 4 missing Ps: discussion about politics, and the presence of policymakers and the press that can carry our message to the public.
Basically we don’t include folks who are likely to use our work (policymakers and the press) and those who would be affected by our work if it is used (the public).
Many public policies are made inside the US Capitol, state capitols, and parliaments around the world.
These buildings are buzzing with political activities involving policymakers, the press, and ordinary folks representing the public.
Many evaluators seemed to be afraid of getting close to the politics. They are afraid that they may lose their credibility as independent evaluators if they come in contact with policymakers and their politics.
But these evaluators forget that evaluation is inherently political because it involves making judgment about prioritization, distribution, and use of resources.
As my mother used to say, “Wherever there are two or more people, there will always be politics over resources.” So instead of avoiding politics or getting bogged down in politics, we have to manage it.
Guess what? Evaluators are rarely walking the halls of those buildings where public policies are being made and influenced. Instead, they are hanging out by themselves in big hotels attending evaluation conferences.
In other words, we evaluators are not in the same building, let alone in the same room, where there is action. We need to get the ring-side seats in order to influence public policymaking.
I believe many of you would love to see your evaluation reports used for improving public policies and programs.
If that’s true, then we all have to work together to build a road that connects the Capitol and the conference hotel.
And the road would have to be travelled in both directions.
Call to Action
- What kind of reaction do you get when you tell someone that you are an evaluator?
- Have you worked with a policymaker? If yes, what did you learn from that experience? If no, why not?
- Have you worked with the press? If yes, what kind of experience did you have? If no, why not?
- Do you think evaluations are inherently political? If yes, how do you understand and manage the politics of evaluation without getting involved in it?
- What should AEA and other evaluation organizations do to integrate the 4 Ps in evaluation discussions?