I just got off the phone with someone that I haven’t spoken with in over a year. I don’t know if this is the case for any others of you independent evaluators out there, but for me I have this happen often. There are relationships that develop and preliminary work begins and just never gets anywhere. We lose touch, then time passes and I’ll get an email or a phone call saying “remember me?” and we start trying again. I’ve had this happen several times now over my career and eventually something takes.
I have a relationship with a software company that I’ve had for going on several years now and just about every project I walk into I’m thinking how can I connect these two dots? Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m hopeful one day it will!
So, back to the resumed relationship, this gentleman is in New Orleans and has been down there now for a couple of years working in the trenches with folks desperately trying to carve out a life for themselves in the midst of tragedy upon tragedy. He said it is hard not to get emotional about the violence, the despair, the lack of infrastructure to support genuinely hard working people who just want a life for themselves and their families. He shared that there are great ideas but no access to support.
I have been working and trying to take some time off, hence the gaps in the blogging, but realize when these conversations raise their heads that our work as evaluators, as social and human service workers, truly never ends. But rather than see this as some unattainable goal that will never be reached, see it as a slow developing process that needs attention differently at different stages. Sometimes it is the initiation, the tilling the soil, the planting the seeds, then at others it is the watering, while still later some weeding must occur, eventually some type of harvest emerges, but very soon thereafter a new crop is ready to be planted. It is a perpetual cycle that I believe feeds us both physically and metaphorically, and we get smarter and smarter with each iteration. Not sure when the next post will be as the summer months have me distracted, but once school starts back I will be at it more regularly.
In the meantime, remember our work is like the lifecycle and there is no end to it, only entries and exits, slow growth and quick starts, heavy times and lighter ones, followed by endings and new beginnings. Enjoy the summer…but don’t stop the work!
This week I am in Seattle working on a United Way Worldwide Strengthening Families United project. The project was funded by a Doris Duke grant to offer 6 pilot United Way sites around the nation to attempt to implement a Strengthening Families framework. Everyone was allowed to propose different activities so we all look different. It has been a neat project to be a part of, but we are closing it down so to speak as the end of the two years has arrived. So, the focus of the week is on closing out projects. I hope to share about writing final reports, looking at processes that worked and those that didn’t, talk some about relationships that have been built with the other site team members and how do we maintain those once the project is over, and how do you turn your attention to the next thing…
In preparation for this gathering I was working on the draft of the final report, it was an exercise I recommend for everyone on any project. Don’t necessarily wait until the end. Pull out your implementation journals/logs (I hope that you keep them!!! If you don’t document what’s going on how can you talk about a cause/effect relationship?) and read through them. Remind yourself of where you were headed by pulling out that original activity/evaluation chart and check that log against those intentions. How’d you do? What can you change now in order to hit an indicator target by the end of the project? What has worked surprisingly well?
Concerning this project, it has been neat to see the development of the activities over the two year process. We knew what we thought would be done, but when using a participatory approach the community drives the directions. This little community is more aware of the five protective factors, parents are engaged in conversations with one another about issues they feel are important, and a local United Way is strengthening the measurements around its allocations processes. Good stuff.