September 19th, 2023
Let’s talk about a truth in our culture. We often operate from the neck up. Our brains often dominate our actions, here’s an example.
First thing in the morning, my brain is ticking through my to do list, my body is going through the motions of getting coffee, brushing my teeth, getting my kids moving, and my heart is completely excluded from what’s happening. And then I can’t find my keys, or my phone. Or both because I was so stuck in my head. My heart and brain were not communicating, and I was not present at what was around me.
As a program evaluator operating from the neck up only, or just using your brain, excludes a critical part of being an effective evaluator – the heart. If you’re looking to build your capacity in program evaluation, ensure your brain and heart are both fully present and communicating.
What do I mean by the brain and heart? Well, the brain refers to the cognitive aspects of evaluation, such as logic models, survey design, and analysis techniques. The heart refers to the emotional and relational aspects of evaluation, such as building a culture of learning, trust, and empathetic listening.
The HeartMath Institute explores the role of the heart in human performance in their e-book Science of the Heart which states,“… communication between the heart and brain actually is a dynamic, ongoing, two-way dialogue, with each organ continuously influencing the other’s function.”
Why is it important to include both the brain and heart in program evaluation? Because it’s not just a technical exercise. It’s also a human one. It includes working with data, and with people. To build your capacity in program evaluation, you need to use your brain to analyze and interpret the data objectively. You also need to use your heart for authentic listening, building trust, and cultivating a learning culture.
So, as you build your program evaluation skills such as creating logic models, surveys, and more. Be sure to bring your heart into the process. It matters. It will empower you to employ a holistic approach to creating a realistic and meaningful program evaluation process.
For more insights, check out my plenary session from the 2020 American Evaluation Association annual conference. The theme was Shine your Light, and I touched on heart/brain communication, building a culture of evaluation, and more. Check it out here – https://youtu.be/KUuNhQPXyyw
Chari accurately captured the fundamental goals and mission of our organization and transformed our input into a clear evaluation process that helps us assess the impact of our programs on the lives of the families that we serve. Now we have an amazing way to measure the physical, emotional, and mental effects of our programs and to guide change, ensuring that we are delivering services in the most effective way possible.Brandi Tuck, Executive Director, Portland Homeless Family Solutions
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