What’s new and exciting in evaluation? Looking two seconds ahead

Stuart Henderson recently posed an interesting question on the AEA LinkedIn discussion forum:

Having just returned from the AEA meetings and come across the book The Two Second Advantage (Ranadive and Maney), I’m wondering what people think are some exciting developments in evaluation.

The book, “The Two Second Advantage” (Ranadive and Maney), suggests that anticipating future developments (i.e., looking two seconds ahead) can increase personal and professional achievement–I’m wondering what others think are exciting new developments in the evaluation field. For example, there certainly seemed to be a developing interest in data visualization among evaluators at the AEA annual meeting. For someone who wants to look two seconds ahead in evaluation, what should they be exploring?

Some interesting responses on that thread (click the link above to view – and join the LinkedIn group if you haven’t already!).

A few of us reflected on this the other day at an anzea end-of-year event – what’s new/changed/interesting over the past year in evaluation?

Here are a few thoughts arising from that discussion (and our own perspectives and experiences) – please add your own!

What’s new/changed/interesting/emerging over the past year in evaluation?

  1. The emergence of evaluative approaches and methods for complex and emergent programs and policies (examples include Patton’s developmental evaluation, Funnell & Rogers’ Purposeful Program Theory)
  2. Less work being done doing “evaluationS” and more work being done at the front end (infusing evaluative thinking into conceptualization and design) and the back end (helping clients think through insights and appropriate changes based on evaluative findings)
  3. Some more serious thought being given to really effective data visualization and reporting (oral and written) – Stephanie Evergreen’s work is cutting edge here; see also some thoughts from me about evaluative reporting that actually gets to the point!
  4. Getting more systematic about the “how good is good” question when interpreting evaluative findings – the use of evaluative rubrics (or “value keys”) has gained a lot of traction and new uses in different settings are getting very interesting. A great local example here is the use of these to infuse community and indigenous values right into the evaluative criteria (i.e. into defining what constitutes a ‘valuable outcome’ or ‘good programming’).
  5. The global economic crisis has led to a sharper focus on value for money and we are grappling with how best to generate an approximate answer to this broad and important question without massively oversimplifying and measuring only the easily measurable (but often trivial).



3 comments to What’s new and exciting in evaluation? Looking two seconds ahead

  • Wow, thanks for the shout out Jane. And to that point, your article on Unlearning Some of our Social Scientist Habits was an extremely inspirational piece that sent me down the dataviz and reporting path. Here’s a link to the article for anyone else interested: http://survey.ate.wmich.edu/jmde/index.php/jmde_1/article/view/68/71
    Seriously – reading that article was like getting a license to think about our reporting in a different way. Thank you!

  • Jane Davidson

    Thanks, Stephanie! I was going to add the link but forgot … thanks so much for your thoughts on this! :)

  • Stuart Henderson

    Jane, Thanks for bringing the LinkedIn discussion to your readers’ attention and for your great contributions to the conversation. Susan Kistler has an AEA post about the future of evaluation, so I linked your post to it.