Who Do I Listen To As An Evaluator?

I was recently asked by famous cartoonist Chris Lysy from Fresh Spectrum which evaluation blogs I follow.

You can read my short answer here. Here is my long answer:

I’ve realised that I don’t actually follow an awful lot of evaluation bloggers. I prefer to get new knowledge and insights through the myriad of webinars on offer and particularly enjoy those organised by the Outcomes Harvesting Community. Of course I’ve been tuning into Chris Lysy’s Unwebinars too. These Unwebinars do their name justice and operate from a really cool format where the audience can co-create the conversation together with the speaker of the day.  Chris, as the host, is largely invisible and just there to hold the space.

A highly valuable platform for evaluators is the Pelican listserv (soon to be rebranded as the Peregrine listserv, to be curated by Better Evaluation. The peer-to-peer exchange that happens on the listserv has been an invaluable learning resource to me throughout the years.

But back to blogs.

I follow Zenda Ofir, a well-known South African evaluator based in Geneva. She plays an active role in the South African Monitoring & Evaluation Association and blogs about current trends and debates in the sector. I discovered the quirky and wise developmental evaluator Carolyn Camman, based in Vancouver,  through their Eval Café Podcast and only read their first blog post today (but have been following them on Twitter for a while) Evaluators interested in anything related to developmental evaluation and equity should pay attention to Carolyn.

I’ve recently discovered the ARTD blog. ARTD is an evaluation consultancy based in Australia. They’ve been putting out extremely helpful practical content that speaks to how organisations can (and should) adapt their M&E during the COVID-19 crisis. The same is true for Feedback Labs, an organisation that collaborates to create incentives, support tools & training on feedback, and foster a community of people and organisations committed to listening. Clear Horizon, also based in Australia, has a great blog too.

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Picture by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash @mohammadmetri

When I develop (or redevelop) M&E training material, I look at Ann Murray Brown’s blog for inspiration. She excels at demystifying monitoring and evaluation for those who are new to the field or those of us more experienced who need a refresher.

I occasionally read The Engine Room’s blog posts. The Engine Room helps activists, organisations, and other social change agents make the most of data and technology to increase their impact. They are actively involved in the Responsible Data discussion, which is an important conversation for any evaluator to be at least aware of, if not actively contributing to. The Responsible Data community has an active listserv too.

Finally, Heather Krause from We All Count, a project for equity in data science, offers a host of valuable resources. We All Count has a book club that is currently reading “Feminist Measures in Survey Research” by Catherine E. Harnois, PhD. You might still be able to join!

Medium is good too

So that’s it with regards to blogs. The list does not in any way pretend to be exhaustive, but gives an overview of where I currently draw my inspiration from and where I check in, in order to stay updated on the latest developments and thinking in the field.

I however agree with Zenda Ofir, who mentions that: “As the COVID-19 pandemic races around the world, evaluation struggles for space. Research studies and data overwhelm, yet evaluation professionals and studies are not present at influential tables. We have fumbled in proving the value of evaluation for the challenges facing humankind”. She also points out the problematic distance between evaluation specialists and those working in adjacent fields like data science, cognitive and neurosciences, behavioural science, management science, artificial intelligence, complexity science and future sciences. Ofir: “All these silos slow down our ability to move forward.”

Maybe those of us brave enough and ready for a bigger audience should explore websites such as Medium, an add free platfrom for independent voices, to publish? Whether we post new ideas and  insights, provocative questions or just open up and reflect honestly on our work and purpose as evaluators – making our writings more widely available, we might be in a better position to contribute to building the field of evaluation and strengthening relationships with related fields.

The people I am currently following on Medium are Deepa Iyer (Author of We Too Sing America; Host of Solidarity is This podcast; Senior Advisor at Building Movement Project; South Asian American activist/lawyer) and Sahana Chattopadhyay (Speaker; Writer; Facilitator; Exploring emergence, sensemaking, & thrivability in a complex, ambiguous world). I loved Deepa’s post on social change organisations as pressure cookers and Sahana has been writing gems on generative conversations, transformative learning in organisations and befriending uncertainty in a post-COVID world.

Who else should I start following? Who are you listening to?

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