Keep Asking Questions

This month marks a year that Deven, Tiffany, and I have been asking ourselves, and you, questions about how to be more human in this work of evaluation. The reflections you’ve shared and the conversations we’ve had with our podcast guests have been among the most valuable moments of this last/lost year. The discussion has been rich, the feedback positive, the connections palpable. Yet, I find myself frustrated by the slow pace of change, by our collective willingness to carry on with business as usual. I know that I’m likely languishing, but I was also struck by the comments my good friend Jara shared in response to my voicing this frustration. She said:

“The evaluation you do is limited and limiting.”

It was a moment of truth and clarity, I know in my gut she’s right. As last month’s guest, Dr. Ayesha Boyce, shared – incorporating equity and inclusion (our shared humanity!) into evaluation can be challenging. I hear from so many evaluators who are trying to “do the right thing” by embracing anti-racism, using culturally responsive methods, and beginning to have conversations with clients about power dynamics. What I also hear is frustration at the unwillingness of clients to engage, the problems with incrementalism, and questions about who and what our work is really in service of. 

And it’s from this place of frustration that I know that we aren’t starting in the right place.  Jara regularly reminds me that who we are in the work matters and that any good work begins with relationship; relationship to self, relationship to others, relationship to the work, relationship to the earth. First, I must feel and figure out how to be with myself differently in order to be with others differently. 

So I am asking myself — Am I willing to make the changes needed to move into the right relationship at all of these levels? Am I willing to slow down enough to do so? What am I willing to give up to move into alignment? 

A year into radically reimagining what it means to be my full human self at work, I’m less certain of the answers, but more confident I am asking the right questions.

Leave us a comment below, tweet at us, or drop us an audio message by email for a future podcast.

3 thoughts on “Keep Asking Questions

  1. I think that one big thing I have learned recently as I do deep delves into evaluation research is that there is pressure to start at step eight on a ten-step process. Things before that are filled with assumptions and sometimes derision, although most commonly ignorance of things that seem to be concrete realities but are instead nebulous and undefined foundations that are much weaker than we often recognize. I think to ask better questions, we need to fundamentally ask about our foundations – investigate our shared definitions, or lack thereof (as is seemingly often the case). We need more awareness of both of the processes that have been followed before us, and how there might be status quo pressure to simply follow these with little to no critical thinking involved in the whys and hows of the steps involved in the processes themselves. Humanizing our work involves recognizing when we practice confidence without any real confidence, or recognizing where we think we have definitions but instead have burgeoning assumptions.

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  2. Libby, your post for this month leaves me with some pondering questions. Here are some:

    What would I need to change about my everyday actions and behaviors in order to truly be in alignment with my values? Is it a sliding and constantly changing scale? What is society’s role in “limiting” my values-alignment?

    What am I in control of? What could I be more in control of? What matters the most? What action steps can I take to prioritize those things?

    How can I act such that society might be more in alignment with my values? Does that even make sense?

    What values are universal? What is my business? What is “our business”?

    Who am I? What is “this work”?

    “Have you ever sat very quietly with closed eyes and watched the movement of your own thinking? Have you watched your mind working — or rather, has your mind watched itself in operation, just to see what your thoughts are, what your feelings are, how you look at the trees, at the flowers, at the birds, at people, how you respond to a suggestion or react to a new idea? Have you ever done this? If you have not, you are missing a great deal. To know how one’s mind works is a basic purpose of education.

    If you don’t know how your mind reacts, if your mind is not aware of its own activities, you will never find out what society is. You may read books on sociology, study social sciences, but if you don’t know how your own mind works you cannot actually understand what society is, because your mind is part of society; it is society. Your reactions, your beliefs, your going to the temple, the clothes you wear, the things you do and don’t do and what you think — society is made up of all this, it is the replica of what is going on in your own mind. So your mind is not apart from society, it is not distinct from your culture, from your religion, from your various class divisions, from the ambitions and conflicts of many. All this is society, and you are part of it. There is no ‘you’ separate from society.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti, 1964, pp. 83-84

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    1. Love that quote – the meta reflection is so useful on several levels and is particularly useful in any context that involves thinking through assumptions, common definitions, and analysis of self within environment and culture – at least that’s been my experience.

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