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Tackling Wicked Problems in Complex Ecologies

posted 13 Apr 2018, 23:20 by Fiona Cram   [ updated 14 Apr 2018, 15:03 ]

The Role of Evaluation

Over the past couple of years I've had the immense pleasure of working with my colleague Prof. Rodney Hopson from George Mason University on an edited book about how evaluation plays out and can contribute to the complex world we currently live in. This book is on the final part of its journey with Stanford University Press and is due for release on 1 May 2018.

This is not a textbook. Rather it's a call for evaluators to step-up and be part of the solution when it comes to the issues the world is facing. The chapter authors demonstrate how they are doing this, and put out a challenge to their evaluation colleagues that they can and they must do the same.

We have gathered together many of our most esteemed evaluation colleagues to write about the evaluation world they know, as all of them are astute about working in complex ecologies (even if they hadn't named them as such before writing for this volume). You may recognise the names of Donna Mertens (transformative evaluation) who has written with Arlinda Boland about gender and disability, and Michael Quinn Patton (utilisation focused evaluation, developmental evaluation) who has written about the evaluation of the Paris Declaration on Aid EffectivenessJill Chouinard and Ayesha Boyce have written about the restoration back into community of those released from jail for sex offending; Robin Lin Miller about the impact of HIV AIDS on young black men; Oran Hesterman and Ricardo Millet (who we remember fondly from his visit some years ago to Aotearoa) have written about food systems; and Andy Rowe about the importance of including environmental considerations in our planning and evaluation. Rodney assembled a wonderful group of his colleagues, led by Crystal Barksdale and including Kimberly Green, Karolina Schantz, Jennifer Kenyon, William Rodick, Akashi Kaul, and Godfrey Jacobs, to write about the importance of evaluation recommendations. And finally, but by no means least, our friend and colleague Linda Tuhiwai Smith who has written about evaluation in Indigenous contexts.

Our focus throughout the volume is on working as evaluators to tackle wicked problems head on, with special regard for the importance of relationships, relevance and responsibilities within these evaluations. Rodney took a lead in introducing these topics in the first chapter of the book, while I took the lead in summing them up in the final chapter and recounting the key themes from what the authors had shared.

The journey was not been without some hiccups. I had to apologise profusely when I accidentally replaced all the shortened 'FFN's in Oran and Ricardo's chapter with Fast Food Network instead of Fair Food Network, the amazing organisation Oran heads. And I had writer's 'block' for way too long, feeling overwhelmed by the fabulously, famous people who had written chapters and the thoughts of 'who was I?' to attempt to sum up their thoughts. But then I remembered to just start at the beginning and write until I get to the end - and at last I wrote an outline for the final chapter so that Rodney could collaborate with me on it.