The evaluation community has long discussed the rising prices of evaluation texts and guides, and the difficulties of accessing a good selection of evaluation books and resources in some parts of the world.
Some of the heaviest selling texts are now clocking in at over US$100, which is also hefty for graduate students buying a dozen or so books each semester.
Until recently, there hasn’t been a lot we can do about this, although not-for-profit publishing houses do offer lower price points (along with all the other benefits publishers can offer, like great editing, and a marketing machine to get your book out there).
Now now there are even more options, as new avenues in self-publishing of both e-books and hard copies dramatically change the publishing landscape.
The world’s first evaluation e-minibook?
This week I have published a low-cost (US$3.99) e-minibook (about 45 pages) based on the content of one of my most recent workshops, which was well received at the Australasian Evaluation Society conference in Adelaide last month, and which I’ll be presenting in an expanded version at my 2-day workshop at AEA in Minneapolis, USA.
Actionable Evaluation Basics: Getting succinct answers to the most important questions is a guide to doing evaluation that:
(a) is clearly relevant to the key actions, decisions, and thinking of those the evaluation needs to inform;
(b) goes right to the heart of what is really important, and doesn’t get lost in the details;
(c) favors approximate answers to important questions over accuracy to four decimal places on trivia;
(d) resists being lured into a focus on only the outcomes that are most easily measured;
(e) presents findings in a way that is simple, but not simplistic;
(f) is useful — at both strategic and practical (or operational) levels;
(g) influences and clarifies thinking, action, and decision-making; and
(h) gives insights that help people figure out what actions to take.
Keeping it simple, but not simplistic
Both the workshops and the minibook are a response to two widespread frustrations I have encountered in my travels.
Evaluators (myself included) frequently encounter people who think that all there is to evaluation is picking a few indicators and measuring them.
On the other hand, clients and other stakeholders are understandably irritated by evaluation reports that swamp them with evidence but leave them none the wiser about how worthwhile the outcomes really were or whether the entire program (or project, policy, etc.) was in fact a complete waste of time, effort, and money.
At one level, we can understand managers’ needing direct answers to their important questions – and trackable progress they can visualize.
But how can evaluators deliver on that without massively oversimplifying the richness we see in project, program, and policy design, implementation, and outcomes?
Six ways evaluation can ‘step up to the plate’
Actionable Evaluation Basics identifies six important ways evaluation needs to ‘step up to the plate’ and better meet the needs of clients:
(1) a clear purpose for the evaluation;
(2) the right stakeholder engagement strategy;
(3) important, big picture evaluation questions to guide the whole evaluation;
(4) well-reasoned answers to the big picture questions, backed by a convincing mix of evidence;
(5) succinct, straight to the point reporting that doesn’t get lost in the details; and
(6) answers and insights that are actionable, that we can do something with.
There’s a lot more to this than meets the eye though! One important concept is to help people understand that evaluation is not just about metrics, measures, and methods; it’s fundamentally about reasoning – evaluative reasoning. [See my June 2012 post entitled: Why “What’s the best tool to measure the effectiveness of X?” is totally the wrong question.]
Availability, audience, and a BONUS for those who post a review!
This short (about 30-page) minibook is available on Smashwords in a range of formats including PDF, ePub, mobi, etc., so you can read it on a PC, Mac, iPad, smartphone, Nook, Kobo, Palm, other e-reader – or print the PDF.
It is also available from Amazon in Kindle format, which you can also read on an iPad, laptop, or PC (with a free downloadable Kindle app); or with no additional software using Amazon’s cloud reader. THe Kindle version isn’t printable.
Actionable Evaluation Basics is primarily intended for people who are relatively new to evaluation, or who have been unhappy with many of their evaluation experiences (as evaluators or as clients) and are looking for practical ideas.
If you like this minibook, please hit ‘Like’ on its Amazon page, and of course do what all genuine evaluators would do – write a review on Smashwords or Amazon! And of course if you don’t like it, say why – and with the wonders of e-publishing, the concerns can be responded to in an updated edition (update availability is far better on Smashwords, by the way). I’ve already made one revision after critiquing my own work, but there is no substitute for fresh sets of eyes on it!
If you contact me, let me know you’ve posted a review, and ask, I will send you a FREE copy of an earlier example of my work!
This bonus item for reviewers is a short piece that blends organizational learning, theory-based evaluation, and evaluative rubrics (this time drawing on a mix of quantitative/survey scales and qualitative/open-ended evidence). It’s a PDF of a keynote I did for GIOP, the Gateway Industrial and Organizational Psychologists in July 2002, entitled, Assessing “Organizational Intelligence”: An introduction to the Organizational IQ Test.
Actionable Evaluation Basics in other languages?
I’ve had some preliminary conversations with evaluators around the world about translating this minibook into Italian, Spanish, German, Bahasa Indonesia, and some other languages. If anyone can see a demand for these or other languages (French, Arabic, Japanese, …?), please post a comment or get in touch!