top of page

Evaluation Link Blog

Facilitating the Achievement of Corporate, Organizational, and Personal Goals: Ethically, Respectfully, and Collaboratively.

Recommended Reading

August 24,  2018

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is a phenomenal book based on the doctoral research of sociologist Matthew Desmond. Desmond was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2015 (also known as a MacArthur Genius) and his book was recognized with the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 2017. It is meticulously sourced yet richly developed as a narrative which means it is a book that should be read with two bookmarks; one to hold one’s place in the text and the other to hold one’s place in the end notes. In a review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Gabriel Thompson, a Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, described it a “that rare work that has something genuinely new to say about poverty” (Mar. 2, 2016). And it does, but why would it be recommended in a blog about evaluation? There are five reasons:

1.Complex Systems – Eviction is an example of a complex system involving landlords and tenants, their friends and families, lawyers, judges, social workers, health care workers, educators, property managers, cleaners, movers, not-for-profit agencies, and policy makers at all levels of government. Desmond teases out complex relationships within the system and shows how the solution to one problem is the root of another. This provides a powerful model for evaluators and clients working to define the theory of change for a program.

2.Data – Desmond documents his data collection involving over a million individual records. He demonstrates innovation and excellence in describing his creation of surveys to drill down and disaggregate data and his methods for calculating social costs in order to identify impact and outcomes. Desmond also explores issues of validity and trustworthiness of survey and interview responses with examples of how people living in poverty may misrepresent reality for valid reasons. Powerful lessons for evaluators are presented in these accounts.

3.Social Justice – The purpose of evaluation is to often establish the worth or value of programs in contributing to social change. This is an extraordinary foundational work for understanding home security in an urban context. Desmond’s conclusions about the antecedents, processes, and consequences of eviction are compelling. In a New York Times book review, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote that “Desmond has set a new standard for reporting on poverty” (Feb. 26, 2016). From a client-interest perspective, many service providers will find this book a source of inspiration, especially the epilogue titled Home and Hope.

4.Ethics – As an academic research project, Desmond’s research proposal work would have been subject to a rigorous ethics review process. However, he discusses important issues in working with vulnerable populations that are relevant for evaluators, too.

5.Professional Competencies – The Canadian Evaluation Society defines evaluator competencies in five domains of practice: interpersonal, reflective, technical, situational, and management. There are lessons on each of these domains of competency in Evicted.

The relationship between research and evaluation has been often debated and Desmond’s work is clearly a mixed method ethnographic research project. However, this is a rich read for evaluators and for all with concern for social justice. Whether you buy a copy or borrow one from the library and whether you read it in hard cover, paperback or e-format, this is sure to be one of the most important books you read this year.

Desmond, M. (2016). Evicted: Poverty and profit in the American city. New York, NY: Broadway.  ISBN 978-0-553-44745-3

Kamloops Evaluation Café - June 7, 2018

May 7, 2018

Evaluation cafés are great opportunities for experienced and emerging evaluators to network with people in the evaluation field, engage in conversation, and learn about what's happening in the local evaluation community. Quite informal, they bring together people from different fields with shared interests in evaluation.   If you live or work in the BC Interior;  conduct evaluations in, or as part of, your work; use evaluation results; and/or would like to learn more about evaluation mark your calendar.  The BC and Yukon Chapter of the Canadian Evaluation Society is hosting an Evaluation Café in the Interior Region:

Date: Thursday, June 7, 2018

Time: 6:30pm to 8pm

Where: Duffy's Pub, 1797 Pacific Way, Kamloops, BC V2E 2H9

Refreshments: Appetizers and cash bar

For further information, please contact:

Marla Turner, CESBCY Interior/Okanagan Coordinator

What An External Evaluator Brings to an Evaluation

April 26, 2018

To do an in-house evaluation or engage an external evaluator?  That can be a difficult question for a not-for-profit organization.  There are pluses and minuses to each option. Let's have a look at some of them, beginning with an internally led evaluation:

Advantages of an Internal Evaluator

Internal evaluators typically have better overall knowledge of the program to be evaluated than an external evaluator. They may also feel passionate about the aspects of the program in which they are most engaged. Other stakeholders may  feel comfortable with a colleague or team of colleagues managing the evaluation and it may cost the organization less than it would to bring in an external evaluator. 

Drawbacks of an Internal Evaluator

An internal evaluator or evaluation team will need to redirect work time to the evaluation, perhaps more than initially anticipated.  Evaluations done off the sides of desks may not be of optimum quality and they may not be done by people with adequate training for, or experience with, evaluations.  There may be overt costs such as the  need to bring in more staff to deliver the program while the evaluation is underway.  There may also be hidden costs to the program caused by benign neglect during the evaluation period, staff preoccupation with other priorities, or missed recommendations for program sustainability. Despite best intentions, the work of internal evaluators may not be completely objective.  There may also be conflicts of interest involved in the outcome of the evaluation that can thwart the authenticity and trustworthiness of the work.

Advantages of an External Evaluator

An external evaluator will bring a set of evaluation skills and expertise to an organization. Typically, an external evaluator can offer a fresh perspective, a more objective lens, and an unbiased critique of the process.  An external evaluator will be able to involve program staff and other stakeholders to the extent that the client wishes to see internal involvement.  The role of internal participants can be  authentic and meaningful through the selection of a collaborative, participatory, or empowerment approach. Without the commitment of delivering the client's program on a daily basis,  the external evaluator is able to dedicate more time and attention to the evaluation. A credentialed external evaluator can also ensure that the evaluation is conducted in accordance with a code of ethics, evaluation standards, and established competencies for evaluators. 

Drawbacks of an External Evaluator

An organization may be uncertain about the cost of contracting evaluation services and the time involved in negotiations and monitoring.  The organization may also wonder how adept the evaluator will be in 'coming up to speed" with their program and establishing a non-threatening atmosphere for program volunteers, clients, staff, and leaders.

Every situation is different.  Sandra Sellick & Associates offer complimentary consultations for not-for-profit organizations regarding the evaluability of their programs and service options.

2018 National Evaluation Conference in Calgary and Yellowknife May 26 - June 1

April 16, 2018

Join the national and global evaluation community for the 2018 Canadian Evaluation Society conference to be held May 27 - 29 with May 26 Workshops in Calgary and Symposium in Yellowknife May 31 - June 1.  The I am looking forward to participating in two of the preconference workshops, attending as many of the wonderful sessions as possible, and  the annual student case competition finals.  Click for details Co-Creation 2018

The First Blog Entry

April 2, 2018

I have been working as an evaluation consultant in private practice for almost six years. A month from now,  I will be will launching a new website, one that will  have space for more information about the services provided by Sandra Sellick and Associates and also include a blog.  Inspired by friends and colleagues whose blogs I follow and enjoy, I am a little nervous, but also very excited, about  becoming a blogger.  As I find my voice in this communication medium, my ultimate goal is to be able to help not-for-profit organizations build their own evaluation capacity.    I also look forward to sharing some of my photos with the posts as I follow a new path.


bottom of page