By Catherine Randall
When I first came to CERE I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I have a background in Journalism and Marketing, and when I saw an email for a social media assistant position I jumped at the chance. Little did I know that the first question I asked would drive all of my work. I am used to asking the hard questions, getting good answers and sharing what I find out. The question “What do you do?” can normally be answered simply with a job description similar to what you would find on a Linkedin page. But at CERE the answer was different for every team member I met with. The passion this team has for their work can be seen through the carefully crafted words that follow my question. Each member of our team has a different answer, but the message is cohesive: Helping people. I was welcomed with open arms into a field of which I knew nothing about. Over my first three weeks at CERE I learned many things about evaluation and what it means to an “outsider” of sorts in the world of evaluation.
Starting a new position during COVID-19 times is daunting in itself, but entering a new field was equally as terrifying. The one word that was said over and over again when meeting with our team here at CERE, “Stories”. Our team does not look at the organizations and projects they work with as numbers and statistics. They see each one as a new opportunity to help tell the stories of the people and places they are helping. As evaluators, it is often difficult to describe the work that is being done or your job. The question “what do you do” is often met with a puzzled look even to your colleagues. I am not ashamed to admit I had no idea what evaluation was when I first began this journey. I thought I would just be creating graphics and gaining followers on an already active social media page. But evaluation is not just presenting information, it is storytelling.
Finding The Why
Many people have asked me since I started working at CERE what evaluation is. It can be quite complicated and confusing for someone with no background in research. But it is simply finding stories both big and small. It is finding the “why”. In journalism, we ask five very important questions, and I have discovered that the same is true in evaluating. Who, what, where, when, and why. There is a sixth question that gets asked here though. How. Finding the answers to these questions and the reasoning behind them pretty much sums up what my understanding thus far of the work we do at CERE.
The Dream Team
I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with almost everyone on our team and hear about the projects they work on. It can be overwhelming to balance the many different hats that our team wears, but they do so seamlessly. Their dedication can be seen in early and late meetings due to time differences. It can be seen in the desire to form a bond with those they are interviewing in order to establish trust and success for everyone involved.