I’m proud to say I’m the first to coin the term “evalusphere.” Of course, “blogosphere” has been around for more than a decade. “The blogosphere is made up of all blogs and their interconnections.” The same can be said of the evalusphere. While it’s made up of all evaluators, evaluations, and their interconnectedness, a growing variety of concepts, disciplines and fields of inquiry are now part and parcel of the evalusphere.
In “The Future of Evaluation,” a panel at Evaluation 2012, Michael Scriven called evaluation “the alpha discipline.” In the same panel, Beverly Parsons spoke of “the growing understanding of complex systems thinking” in the evaluation community, and Susan Kistler opined that using cultural competence is the only way to do quality evaluation. In the opening plenary, Rodney Hopson spoke about the emergence of evidence-based discourse, addressing methodological challenges, and understanding the principles of adaptive management. Numerous presenters held sessions on new technologies and data visualization.
The very nature of the evalusphere – that seemingly unending existence of readily accessible information, people, expertise, and opportunities for learning and practice – imparts my challenge: navigating and prioritizing this overwhelming expanse and coming to terms with the lack of widespread agreement among evaluation theorists and practitioners on approaches, methods, and vocabulary.
I was reminded of this last Friday walking through Times Square in Manhattan where my senses were bombarded and I found it difficult to focus. Did I want to see the advertisements? Do some people watching? Find a particular store or restaurant? Head to Broadway for a show? See where the New Year’s Eve ball drops? Yes. Yes to all.
As I explore the evalusphere do I want to learn more about evaluation approaches? Logic modeling? Data collection? Analysis? Reporting? And where best to enact this learning? A virtual classroom? Textbooks? Journals? Social media? Conferences? My own practice? Interactions with colleagues? Yes. Yes to all.
Just as I couldn’t possibly see all there is to see in Manhattan in one day, I can’t consume all of the evaluasphere in a day, and at the rate it’s expanding, not even in a lifetime. Later in that panel, Scriven went on to say, “the future of evaluation is what you make of it.” Well, I’m certainly making something, although I don’t yet know what.
What corner of the evalusphere are you exploring?