Entering the Evalusphere

I promised to share some of what brought me to this blog and have since realized completely fulfilling that pledge is a process that will emerge over time rather than an item I can address in a single post.

I’m still really slow with this whole blog post writing thing.  My internal editor is far too critical for my own good thanks to years of academic training and professional writing.  While I was writing this post my colleague and evaluation blogging trailblazer, Chris Lysy posted “4 reasons to have a blog, even if you don’t blog”.  With the humor and insight I appreciate so much from Chris, he elucidated some of my reasons for this blog better than I was going to.   Truthfully, my original post was going to pay homage to Ann, Susan, Chris, and Sheila who shared their blogging experience at the American Evaluation Association conference in October 2013 (slides here).   I’m going to do that in a different way by including them in my take the “4 reasons to have a blog post”.

The reasons to blog are compelling and I like the four Chris gives.  However, with every motivational reason, there can be an associated fear factor and it’s worth addressing those, too.  I love quotes, I’ll prescribe some “Quote Medicine” that might combat some of the resistance that is part of learning and opening oneself to evaluation.

(Digression: I first heard about “quote medicine” when learning SAS programming in the late 90s.  The instructor gave us a command comprised solely of punctuation that would get the program to run if we had unbalanced quotes in our program.  Part of the deal with Quote Medicine is you must vow to find and address the underlying problem once you get running.)

Motivational Reason 1: You have stage control

Fear-based Question: What if I screw this up?

I have the power, “MUAHAHAHAHAH!!!”  OK, maybe maniacal laughter is taking it bit too far. It is fun to have a platform that is mine, all mine (my own, my precious).  There’s a freedom in exploring ideas and putting things out there that are not polished and perfectly reasoned.    The associated fear factor is that I am solely responsible for this and the internet can be a harsh place. Peer review has nothing on the “interwebs” for the potential to crush a person’s creative spirit.   My dad would say, “The Lord hates a coward, He’s not too keen on stupid, either”.   Somewhere between brave coward and wise fool seems about right.

Quote Medicine:

 You can either fit in or stand out. Not both. Seth Godin (Linchpin)

Motivational Reason 2: Show your humanity

Fear-based Question 2:  Is my humanity showing?  How embarrassing!

My favorite blogs are authentic.  Sheila B. Robinson has an authentic, evaluation-focused blog called Evaluspheric Perspectives.  She’s professional, personable, and always real.  I have immense respect for that and am pleased to share the “evalushphere” with Sheila (who coined that very cool term).  The ability to put more of who I am out there in the world is compelling.  So often our work cuts us off from expressing the people we are the rest of the time.  That’s a tragedy.  The scary part is that revealing our humanity means beings vulnerable and, yes, judged.  The fear factor is compounded for people in professions connected to the scientific method like evaluation. The implicit message is that your humanity counts for a lot less than the letters after your name and the awards on your wall.

Quote Medicine

“If humanity is to survive – and not only that, to flourish- we must be brave enough to find our wisdom and let it shine”. Sakyong Mipham, The Shambhala Principle  (p. 21)

Motivational Reason 3:  Build a following and keep in touch

Fear-based Question 3:  Who would follow ME?  and What if no one follows?

I wholeheartedly agree with the keeping in touch part. The AEA365 blog, started by Susan Kistler and now curated by Sheila Robinson is great connecter.   I am an internal evaluator and a “virtual employee”.  My work team is located in California and our organization is headquartered in Washington, DC.  I don’t live within 500 miles of either of those places.  The internet allows me to keep in touch with everything and everyone I can imagine.   In his take on Reason 3, Chris says, “You have great things to offer, let me follow you.”  Time will tell whether what I have to offer is “great” (my metric for “great” is yet to be determined) and, to be honest, I’m still figuring out what the “things” are that I’ll offer.  As I’ve said, I don’t yet have a destination in mind for this journey. The possibility of Chris and other evaluators I respect as “followers” is a humbling and daunting thought. And that doesn’t even take into account the people I haven’t met yet.  How exciting!

Quote Medicine

“When we stop caring about what other people think, we lose our capacity for connection”. Brene Brown, Daring Greatly (p. 169)

Motivational Reason 4: Support your offline presentations

Fear-Based Question 4: What happens when people connect blogging me with working me?

This is not one of my reasons for blogging, but I appreciate that others do this.  The videos on Ann Emery’s blog are an example of how to do this well.  Every time I watch one of her videos, I learn something.   When I first read this reason, I solidly decided, “Not for me.” I’m rethinking that.   Truthfully, I’m a bit skittish about linking my “day job” with this blog too closely.  Next time I give a presentation, I’ll figure out how to share some of the concepts in a blog post and see what happens.

Just for the record, I wasn’t at all planning on revealing my blog to other blogging evaluators today. I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing and don’t have everything set up properly.  However,  Chris’s post inspired me.  Telling someone that what they do matters is important.  Showing someone that they matter in a way that means something to them is even better.  Isn’t that what we all want- to know what we do matters?

For anyone keeping track, add one to your tally of evaluation bloggers. I guess I’m here now.

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