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The world of evaluation has developed mostly in the context of the public sector and, in theory, it is meant to provide an objective analysis of the success or failure of a program. Unfortunately, it has been presented as scientific – an evidence-based collection of data that proves or disproves the intended outcome of an investment of time and money.

But in the context of inequality, objective inevitably upholds dominant ideas about what success looks like.

So, what is good evaluation? It is important to see that evaluation, feedback, reflection (insert other synonyms) is part of good non-profit management. Good evaluation begins by recognizing all the information you already use to understand how you are doing. Evaluation is best done in our sector using Appreciative Inquiry and starting with the positive. It is also best to let those involved an opportunity to explore the data and help make meaning of it. And it is best to engage someone who understands the complexities of non-profits in terms of budgets, governance and the potential vulnerability of clients/participants. It is also best to have someone who understands power and can see where choice and capacity might be undermined by disempowering systems and demands.

Reach out to discuss your evaluation needs. Watch out for blogs on the topic in the coming months.

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Non-profits are best served by beginning with knowing what is working well, then building on strengths to identify future goals. Alison insists on using appreciative inquiry in al that she does. 


Alison advocates for purpose-driven governance. (see blog entry ‘Governing with Purpose: Decision-making as an organizational pursuit.’

When she works with Boards, she …

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