This is an Eval Central archive copy, find the original at evalacademy.com.
The first evaluation book I read was Michael Quinn Patton’s (aka MQP) Utilization-Focused Evaluation. It was an intimidating introduction to evaluation. The book is 667 pages of subject matter that isn’t exactly light. However, it is full of anecdotes, case studies, stories, pictures and metaphors that inspired me to keep reading. His use of metaphors helped me transcend literal concrete evaluation concepts and theories and instead helped me create images that were easier to understand, process and ultimately use (talk about utilization-focused!)
I am now a full-time evaluation consultant who co-founded Three Hive Consulting – a company that provides people with evaluation expertise they need to learn and improve. Eleven years later, I still refer to that book and a multitude of other evaluation resources MQP has bestowed upon our professional niche over the years. He is the one I, along with many other evaluators, listen to and learn from. Like Yoda, MQP is revered for his wisdom and his power to inspire thinking differently about evaluation ideas. And while he isn’t a small, green humanoid alien there are striking similarities between the two (that go beyond the bald head and unique sweaters).
Yoda trained Jedi for 800 years and had a hand in training almost every Jedi master in the galaxy
When you visit MQP’s website it is obvious he is evaluation’s Jedi master. He has worked in the field for almost 50 years – beginning just when evaluation was emerging as a profession. During that time, he has authored numerous books that include Principles-Focused Evaluation (2018), Facilitating Evaluation (2018), Developmental Evaluation (2010) and Utilization-Focused Evaluation (2008). He has also edited or contributed articles to numerous books and journals.
MQP is an active trainer, workshop presenter and evaluation consultant. He has trained evaluation Jedis all over the world and across different organizational sectors. In fact, his Blue Marble Evaluation is all about training evaluators to engage with and evaluate global change efforts.
Yoda is revered for his wisdom and has tremendous power in the force
Over his 50 years in the field, MQP has accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but his power in the evaluation world doesn’t come from information gathering. Knowledge relates to learned facts, but wisdom means putting that knowledge to good use. Wisdom is about knowing which facts are relevant and being able to thoughtfully apply that information.
Through his work over the years, MQP found that traditional evaluation approaches were not meeting the needs of social innovators – they needed another approach to match the nature and scope of innovations. Instead of imposing logic models and rigid methods and approaches on these innovations, MQP developed an evaluation approach called Developmental Evaluation. With Developmental Evaluation it is okay to begin an evaluation without clear, measurable outcomes when you’re in new territory with massive challenges and you don’t know the solution.
We are all creatures of habit; as evaluators we have our go-to methods. Yoda taught us that to achieve growth and success, sometimes “you must unlearn what you’ve learned.” While MQP isn’t saying we must unlearn traditional evaluation approaches, he is cautioning that to successfully evaluate complexity we need to be ready to change our attitudes and leave the comfort zone that our logic models provide.
Yoda warns Luke won’t be a Jedi until he confronts Darth Vader
MQP says that evaluation “grew up in the projects” and has a project mentality. But evaluators are increasingly tasked to move beyond evaluating projects and programs and instead are called to evaluate non-traditional and new directions like systems change, policy, strategy and transformation.
Evaluators are being challenged to evaluate these new directions because our world is so much more connected. Our interconnected world means global challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, migration and inequality, among others, are not confined to borders. MQP developed Blue Marble Evaluation “to ensure that evaluators are prepared to engage with and evaluate these global change efforts” which he says require special perspectives and competencies:
“It means bringing the full arsenal of evaluation thinking, tools, methods, and processes to bear at a global level — and creating new approaches appropriate to the challenges of global systems evaluation.”
Much like when Yoda warns Luke he wouldn’t be a Jedi until he confronts Darth Vader, MQP is cautioning that evaluators won’t be full Jedi evaluators until we confront global challenges (our Darth Vader) by thinking globally, acting locally and evaluating globally.
Yoda is a comical, eccentric, provocative character
MQP is a comical, eccentric, provocative character. Case in point….
Thank you MQP for being our Yoda. Thank you for your wisdom, but more importantly thank you for passing it on. As Yoda taught us, the wisdom we gain in life is a gift to pass along—not to keep to ourselves. To all you evaluation Jedis out there, share your insights with others as Yoda and MQP did with us, for
“in a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way”
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