Image: BC Healthy Communities' Research and Evaluation Specialist Diana Gresku (L) poses with Sharon Bala, author of The Boat People and the facilitator of Bridges to Empathy, one of the sessions at this year's Canadian Evaluation Society Conference.
From a young age, I was taught to separate work from my personal life. Especially in the field of evaluation and research. I’ve always tried to bring empathy and respect to the way I carry out my work, but still, I focused on producing ‘objective’ results and maintaining ‘professionalism.’ After attending the Canadian Evaluation Society Conference this past week in Halifax, a beautiful coastal city, with a small hometown feel, I realized I need to approach my work with more humanness—bring more of myself to this work. And this is actually okay. In fact, I think it’s needed more than ever.
For four days, I attended workshops, hands-on sessions and panel discussions on a variety of topics—from qualitative analysis, realist approaches to evaluation, strategic planning and evaluation, and evaluation with and for Indigenous communities.
I learned that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to evaluation. Every project, program, client and community member is unique. Of course, we can come to each evaluation project with our excitement, ideas, experiences and skills, but more importantly, we must bring empathy, respect, an open mind and humility to each interaction we have.
What does this look like in practice? How can be humbler and more open-minded? In evaluation we are taught to measure success and outcomes, tracking indicators over time using ‘evidence-based, Western’ methodologies. The focus in evaluation is on the external. Yet, I’m realizing more than ever, that we must look inwards and undergo a process of self-reflection in order to understand personal and systemic biases that we each have. We need to humbly acknowledge that we are learners, especially when it comes to understanding another’s experience. We should not just do this as evaluators, but as members of this society and as human beings.
Ah, to this example you might say, but I am busy and I have deadlines and high-quality reports to complete, and self-reflection takes too long and does not have the benefits I am seeking. Yet, I would have to say that this approach (this more human approach), brings quality to the work we do. Yes, it takes time, but it allows us to better connect with others, including our clients, our funders, our stakeholders and people in general. When we work on ourselves, I think we are better able to interact with those around us and build trust so that stories can be shared, and relationships are built over the long term. During a time when inequities are persistent, and there is a nationwide focus on reconciliation, these ways of re-thinking our work are so important.
We need to humbly acknowledge that we are learners, especially when it comes to understanding another’s experience. We should not just do this as evaluators, but as members of this society and as human beings.
To summarize, I’d like to pass on these key takeaways. Hopefully, they resonate with you.
Diana is passionate about understanding health inequalities and is committed to addressing health issues within her local and global communities.
She has recently left the BC Healthy Communities team to pursue med school, but she will always be a member of the BCHC family.>>Full Bio