Evaluation is often important, whether it refers to our individual behavior or large scale projects. Our efforts our seldom successful in each and every time and in every aspect. Evaluation helps us to get an idea of how successful something has been, what went right, what went wrong which is essential to determine further steps. But evaluation in practice is often problematic in the sense that it lacks precision and usefulness. Years ago, my colleague Gwenda Schlundt Bodien and I were dissatisfied with traditional evaluation approaches. We found evaluations often lacked precision in focus, over accentuated numbers, focused too much on problems, and lacked usefulness for both the person who provided the information and the one who gathered it. Based on solution-focused principles we developed an approach to evaluation we called 'Activating Evaluations' and which aims to overcome the shortcomings mentioned above. Briefly the approach consists of four steps along the following lines:
- Was this useful? (if not, how can/could it be more useful?)
- If yes, which of the following elements did you find most useful? a) ..., b) ..., c) ..., etc.
- How were these useful for you?
- What do you see as a good step forward?
We use this approach a lot in our projects and training programs and we have found it to be very informative and useful. Both the recipients of the information and the person providing the information benefit. By answering these questions, the participants benefit because they are invited to make things very explicit.