Together, Apart: Evaluation in 2020
By Moira Ragan
The COVID-19 situation has disrupted life for all of us, personally and professionally. For those of us lucky enough to be working—albeit not without difficulties and limitations—we have our work cut out for us.
All evaluators are well versed in adapting but this is different. This is a new, terrible and completely unforeseeable situation. We couldn’t imagine preparing for this, so we didn’t.
The adaptation challenge
We all plan out evaluations to the year, month, week, even day. We schedule around programming, events, academic calendars. We build in contingencies in case of programming variations, unanticipated results, schedule changes.
What happens, though, when the schedule is thrown out the window? There are short- and long-term implications to consider. And then there are ripple effects.
Take, for example, an evaluation in education. When can we start collecting data? How do we account for pandemic-related issues—the stress and burdens on teachers, access to students, loss of resources? If we delay until next year, will the timing be any better? In the fall, schools are likely to be focused on remediation so whatever support there was for evaluation and research may wane.
So, what now?
The world has changed—in ways we can’t yet know. The field of evaluation has changed. So, what are we going to do about it? What is an evaluator’s role through the life of a crisis? Is there a silver lining here? How about these days, when we are likely crammed around a table in the dining room, we see the potential to show how flexible evaluators can be?
Let’s not do evaluation in solitary. Let’s do it in solidarity.
As we figure out how to conduct a focus group online with students scattered at their homes where they may or may not have Wi-Fi, let’s lean on each other. Let’s share lessons learned. Let 2020 be a year of innovation and collaboration.
Let’s do evaluation together, apart.
We’re compiling a list of evaluators’ ideas, resources and new ways of working; things that our colleagues across the world have learned about how to adapt their evaluation practice in these unique circumstances. Add your tips to the list, and we’ll share what we find in about a month’s time!
To contribute as part of our global community of evaluators, share your experiences here.