Evan Scott’s day started just like most other days.
At his desk, staring at a clogged email inbox and a stack of papers filled with things that somehow or another needed his attention.
If he had known just how much paperwork was involved he might have ignored his desires to devote a career towards helping others.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door.
“Evan, you busy?”
It was his second in command, Bo Cratchet. She had been with him when he was first pushing the idea for this grant funded non-profit. Now as project manager she knew much more about the project than he did.
“Yes Bo, always busy, but what can I do for you?”
Bo looked a little sheepish, she had something to say but knew it wouldn’t go over well.
“There are a couple of dashboard developers here. They’re close friends with my best project assistant and have a few ideas on how we can improve our data collection and analysis.”
Didn’t Bo see the stack of papers on Evan’s desk? She knew the deadlines they were up against better than anyone. Who has time for evaluation!
Bo didn’t wait for an answer, seeing Evan’s face she quickly changed the topic.
“Justine Marley’s also here. She said she knows you, should I send her in?”
With that Bo turned, closed the door, and headed back out to the main office.
Evan hadn’t seen Justine for years. He met her as he was just getting started on his grant proposal, Justine was at the time in the final year of her grant.
“Evan, I’m here to warn you.”
“Warn me, about what?”
“It’s your funding Evan, you’re at risk of losing it and everything you’ve built here if you don’t take your evaluation more seriously.”
“But it’s only year two, there are still three years, that’s plenty of time to worry about evaluation.”
“I thought that too Evan, but trust me, it’s not as long as you think. And the longer you wait, the harder it gets to actually collect accurate data and analyze it appropriately.”
That night as Evan Scott readied himself for bed, he couldn’t help but think about Justine’s warning. “What if she was right?”
“Bah humbug he thought, there’s still time.”
Closing his eyes Evan drifted off to sleep.
“What was that,” Evan jumped out of bed.
All of a sudden a figured emerged into his room.
“Hello Evan, I am the spirit of evaluation past. I am here to show you what was.”
With that the spirit whisked Evan away to a moment in time that seemed like ages ago. There he was, sitting at a table alongside Professor Fizziwig.
“Why it’s our initial evaluation planning session, and there is old Professor Fizziwig. He was one of the most influential figures in our initial project design. He helped us develop a plan that was systematic, outcome-based, and measurable.” Evan remembered the wisdom of the old professor fondly.
“You were so filled with hope and optimism at that time in your program’s development. But what happened to that evaluation plan? The moment you hit the least bit of resistance it was abandoned. You didn’t even bother to call Professor Fizziwig to see if he could help you adapt the plan for the new realities.”
“Tonight you will be visited by two more spirits. Listen to them Evan, your program is not yet lost. There is still hope.” And with that the spirit was gone.
The next spirit who arrived introduced herself as the spirit of evaluation present.
“Come with me Evan.”
The spirit took Evan to a small board room. Crowded around the table were some of the most important figures in the local community.
In front of the room was a young man, presenting in front of a power point deck.
“Spirit, who is that young man?”
“Why it’s tiny Jim, Bo Cratchet’s favorite project assistant. He has recently taken on the role of evaluator.”
“But what is it that he’s presenting? It’s a small chart with hardly any data?”
“But don’t you remember Evan. You haven’t committed the resources towards any type of evaluation. Poor Evan has meetings like this on a regular basis. Trying to justify the importance of the program without anything to support his claims.”
“He believes in your program Evan. He knows it works, but try telling that to this room. They will only trust the gut of a program assistant for so long.”
All of a sudden the spirit of evaluation present was gone.
In walked another spirit, “hello Evan, I am the spirit of evaluation future. Let me show you the mark you’ve made on the community. At least if things keep going as they have.”
The spirit transported Evan to the location of one of his program’s top sites.
But the site was empty, a closed sign hanging on the door.
“Where is everyone spirit?”
“They are gone. Your program lost its funding, there is nothing for them here anymore.”
“Bo Cratchet? Tiny Jim? What has happened to them?”
“Looking for new work I’m afraid. Tiny Jim is considering law school or business school. His time as a project assistant was tough, he’s decided to move away from the nonprofit sector.”
“And the program itself, has it spun off into a new implementation elsewhere?”
“I’m afraid not. There was no good evaluation data to prove that it worked. The lessons learned were inadequately disseminated in long reports that nobody will bother to read. It’s as if your project never existed.”
“No spirit! Say there is still time, we can show the program’s impact.”
We can at the very least share all of the hard lessons we have learned over time!
“Oh Evan, the future is always shifting and still very much open for you to alter.”
Luckily it was all just a dream.