Evaluation Over the Years by Kylie Hutchinson, Keynote Speaker

Some conference themes resonate with me more than others. When I saw this one I thought, “Yes!”  Innovation, action, and reflection are all things that have been on my mind lately as an evaluator. Let me tell you why.

I took my first evaluation course in 1988 and went out on my own as an independent consultant in 1998. So as you can imagine I have a few years to reflect on. My first CES conference was Toronto 1990. For years it seemed to me there was nothing new in evaluation, and probably for good reason. We were still a young, relatively new profession and everyone was busy building our reputation and seeking acceptance. Fast forward to 2005-2006 and things seemed to really take off. Now everywhere I look I see innovation being introduced into the field, and it’s very exciting. From boundary-pushing reports to previously unthinkable forms of data collection, the times they are a changin’. Sometimes it freaks me out as I try to keep up, but it’s still exciting.

As evaluation evolves, so has my role as an evaluator. Where I once focused on methodology, logic models, and statistics, I’m now concerned with capacity-building and systems thinking. Along the way I’ve had to acquire skills in group facilitation, training, coaching, data visualization, and communications and graphic design. But wait, there’s more! If I’m truly concerned about action and social change, I also see Change Management hovering on the horizon.

Hmm, I think this calls for some reflection.

When I look at my toolbox now, it’s full. Really full. I want to see my evaluations result in action, but a Change Agent? Dare I go there? Is this skill also destined for my evaluator’s toolbox? I’m still not sure. Over the years my strengths have changed. Where once I was a whiz kid with innovative new ideas, I now rely more on the wisdom and experience I’ve gained from thirty years in the trenches. Is it my role to be everything an evaluator can possibly be in this brave new world, or can I just combine my complementary strengths with those of other evaluators?   I don’t know, which is one reason I’m looking forward to this conference.

Facing forward – innovation, action, and reflection. Indeed.

Kylie Hutchinson, independent evaluation consultant and trainer with Community Solutions Planning & Evaluation. She is the author of Survive and Thrive: Three Steps to Securing Your Program’s Sustainability.