Have you ever found yourself sitting at your desk or on your couch, gazing out at your surroundings, wondering how you got there? That was my experience recently as I took a deep look at my living space. I see the pictures of my family, friends, and travels. I see the books that have guided me personally and professionally. I know where each piece of furniture came from. I see the candle that makes my space smell like freshly baked banana bread and the container with my favorite tea.
What I don’t see is me.
I mean, technically I do see me. I’m in the pictures. I’ve touched every nook in this space. I made the choices to purchase and place each item.
But it’s a shell of me. It’s a safe version of me. It’s the me that has tried to make things fit in a space that is not right for them. Belongings trapped in a space not facilitating belonging.
How did we get here? And what does this have to do with evaluation? There’s a point, I promise.
I moved into this space almost 9 years ago, with the items that fit into my car + a few boxes that I shipped across the country. My bedroom had an air mattress and a yoga mat. Not quite what I had envisioned for my first post-graduate school professional life. I gradually found couches at a thrift store, built furniture from IKEA (10/10 do not recommend, there are just so many tiny pieces.), and purchased my first ever brand-new mattress.
Over the years, I’ve acquired new things, gotten rid of other things, and kept some that I’m attached to for no apparent reason (Am I really going to re-read my advanced statistics notes? Hard pass.).
I’ve moved the furniture around in the living room at least 5 times. But no matter what I rearrange, something does not fit. This space doesn’t showcase my spunky outdoorsy personality, and it isn’t bringing me joy.
This space shows a version of me that no longer serves me. What felt like intention at the time, feels like it grew out of necessity now. And it’s time for that to change.
I see this same journey and reckoning with my evaluation clients. (Told you we were getting there!)
So often, we build evaluation strategies out of survival. We outline a generic logic model because the grant application required one. We piece together outcomes, databases, and measurement strategies at the request of different funders as our programs grow. We create a dashboard of KPIs to show our board, and write up our findings in an impact report.
And that works…for a while. It was what we needed at the time. But it’s kind of blah.
And you, my friend, are not blah. Your program is not blah.
At its heart, data represents people. And if I know anything in this life, it’s that people are far from blah and boring.
When we try to template and checklist our way out of complexity, we lose intentionality and creativity.
Wouldn’t you rather build meaningful and sustainable evaluation strategies that ignite your passion and highlight your uniqueness?
I know I would. And together we can. At Elizabeth Grim Consulting, we help purpose-driven organizations reimagine evaluation through intentional inquiry, meaningful measurement, and sustainable strategies.
Not sure where to get started?
Here are five questions that we can ask ourselves today to ground our evaluation strategies:
- What emotions do I feel when I think about my data and evaluation work?
- Where do I feel those sensations in my body?
- What is working well?
- What is no longer serving us?
- How are our evaluation strategies bringing our organization’s values to life?
It’s never too late for a reset. So if you’re sitting on your couch, feeling like your data strategies don’t represent your values or your story, let’s dream and scheme together.
You deserve more. You deserve to feel seen, heard, and inspired. Because you, my friend, are a passionate and amazing agent of change.
Let’s make your learning + evaluation strategies show that spark and spunk too.