Guest Bloggers

Genuine Evaluation is a tough standard. It’s methodologically, practically, and politically challenging at every turn. We don’t claim to achieve it in every piece of work we do, nor do we think we have a monopoly on useful ideas for getting closer to our goal.

One of the things we try to do whenever possible is to get a burst of fresh thinking from some of the planet’s most experienced and insightful evaluators. That is the intent of our ‘guest blogger’ series. The guest blogger is asked to post their views on anything broadly related to genuine evaluation, for about a week. We (Patricia and Jane) blog alongside our guests, interacting with them and others who comment on their and our posts.

Here’s our list of our guest bloggers so far …

It is hard to imagine a more amazing journey to become an evaluator and international public speaker than the story of Tererai Trent. From humble beginnings in a cattle-herding family in rural Zimbabwe, where she was denied education because she was a girl and taught herself to read, Tererai has overcome incredible odds to achieve her dreams.

With her mother’s encouragement to aim high, Tererai wrote down her life goals on a scrap of paper and buried them in a tin box beneath a rock in a field where she herded cattle. Then she began systematically crossing those goals off as she achieved them.

From her poor village in Zimbabwe, Tererai left for America in the late 1990s and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 2000 and 2003 from Oklahoma State University. In 2009 she checked the last item off her list when she was awarded her doctorate – an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation from Western Michigan University.

Tererai’s work experiences, which include more than 8 years working for Heifer International as a Deputy Director of Monitoring & Evaluation, have taken her to five continents. Tererai worked with Michael Scriven, who supervised her doctoral studies at WMU, for five years in a major impact assessment that spanned 20 countries worldwide. Her main role was to ensure evaluative components such as gender, HIV, and cultural context were mainstreamed within each multicultural setting.

As a professional evaluator who now heads her own California-based evaluation consulting firm, Tinogona Consulting, she draws upon multiple perspectives of evaluation theory, practice and its utilization, as well as from her own extraordinary life experiences. Tererai brings together viewpoints from both the developing and developed world to provide a unique and very practical perspective on evaluation.

We are pretty sure Tererai is the world’s first evaluator to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Make absolutely sure you check out her amazing story on the Oprah site in video form. It’s absolutely incredible. As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said,

“Any time anyone tells you that a dream is impossible, any time you’re discouraged by impossible challenges, just mutter this mantra: Tererai Trent.”

To contact Tererai directly – or to book her as a motivational speaker! – check out her website at Tinogona Consulting.

Click to see Tererai’s posts.

There would be few evaluators on earth who wouldn’t put Michael Scrivenin their top shortlist of huge contributors to the development of evaluation as a profession and as a discipline. Some of his most valuable contributions have (in our view) been:

  • clearly defining the very core of evaluation – the fundamental logic and methodologies that distinguish evaluation from other related activities such as applied research
  • showing how evaluation logic and methodology is the common thread running through the evaluation of programs, policies, personnel, policies, products, etc – and how ideas from one of these domains can be fruitfully applied in others
  • identifying, in the Key Evaluation Checklist, the “must have” ingredients that every evaluation should cover in order to get to sound, defensible conclusions

If you don’t have Michael’s Evaluation Thesaurus (4th ed.) and Hard-Won Lessons in Program Evaluation on your Genuine Evaluation bookshelf, be sure to get them! For a look at what Michael’s evaluation approach looks like in practice, check out the AEA 2009 presentation on the Heifer project.

Michael Scriven was born in England, took honors degrees in mathematics and then in the philosophy of mathematical logic at the University of Melbourne, and his doctorate in philosophy at Oxford. His 400+ publications span fields as diverse as mathematics, philosophy, psychology, education, critical thinking, technology studies, computer studies, parapsychology, and evaluation.

He is an ex-President of the American Educational Research Association, and of the American Evaluation Association, and the recipient of the American Evaluation Association’s Lazarsfeld Medal for contributions to evaluation theory.

Click to see Michael’s posts

One of the southern hemisphere’s top evaluators, Nan Wehipeihana is highly respected in New Zealand as an evaluator and a leader in the profession. She brings to her work a strong focus on many of the key principles of genuine evaluation. She is a top-level evaluation advisor to several large government agencies, often working at the strategic level to influence government policy as well as helping agencies devise robust macro-level evaluation strategies that will inform both policy and practice. She is also well known internationally for her work on applying indigenous approaches, models, and perspectives to high quality evaluation work.

Nan is considered one of evaluation’s premier thought leaders in New Zealand evaluation, and is particularly skilled at applying her M?ori (indigenous) worldview to leading-edge evaluation theory, methodology and practice in a way that generates powerful insights with – in our view – global implications.

Nan Wehipeihana is the Director of Research Evaluation Consultancy Limited, established in 1997. She specializes in evaluation and research with a focus on M?ori (indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand) and evaluation in and with M?ori tribal and community groups. A key focus is in the area of policy and program evaluation, and the development of culturally driven evaluation outcome frameworks.

Nan has extensive public and private sector experience including work in the broadcasting, education, employment, housing, justice, social development, social policy, sport and recreation sectors. Nan’s tribal affiliations are to Ng?ti Porou, Te Wh?nau-?-Apanui and Ng?ti Tukorehe.

Click to see Nan’s posts


to her work