There’s an uncomfortable moment I often experience: I meet someone new and they, inevitably, inquire about what I do. When I tell them, “I’m a program evaluator,” I get a blank look followed by, “What is a program evaluator?” I go on to explain what we do as evaluators, list common tasks (e.g., design surveys, conduct focus groups, measure program impact), followed by a list of potential client groups (e.g., schools, higher education institutions, nonprofits). All seems fine after this initial conversation. The interesting part is when I talk with that person again, they ask: “What do you do again?” Funnily, this experience is not limited to strangers. Recently, I overheard an immediate family member explaining my occupation to another relative as: “I think she does Internet stuff.”
Over the last decade I have examined ways to best describe program evaluation and keep the description brief and salient. I think this is attributable to the fact that our field of program evaluation is uncommon in the marketplace – there are no Halloween costumes for us or trinkets to display our occupations.
Do you have a brief description that works for you to describe the field of evaluation?
P.S. Stay tuned for our next blog, which will detail the basic definitions of evaluation.