New to Environmental Evaluation: What do we need to know?
From Lars Balzer
Several, freely available important evaluation guides (checklists,
standards, …) have been written to support daily evaluation work.
Authors are universities, the National Science Foundation, the European
Union, the UNESCO, UNICEF, and many more.
English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic,… versions are available.
many listed here: http://www.evaluation.lars-balzer.name/links/online-material-how-to-do-evaluation/
Led by Kristen Collins
What are the ideas and key skills those that are new to environmental evaluation need or would benefit from? A unique part of environmental evaluation is the fact that the results may not be immediate, they may be hard to track. Many different factors are at play in the environment. It is important to understand that there are two time scales at work in the environmental program evaluation – the human time scale and the natural time scale.
An educational component is helpful in getting people to understand that time scale, how the environmental program evaluations can be used or misused. There are three segments of environmental evaluation: natural resources uses; conservation and environmental protection. They are not the same, but they do overlap. There is valuable literature on evaluation uses and scientific research. One is from Bill Clark from the Packard Foundation. One aspect of environmental evaluation is the use of intervention models with controls. The evaluation needs to be incorporated into the initial design of the program. An interesting aspect of environmental evaluation is the understanding of the premise of ecology with human and natural systems overlapping.
There is a need to look beyond the merit (defined as the net incremental change in one of those two systems). There is a desire to put a dollar value on evaluation, but there is a variety of ideas of “worth” of the natural system: food source; source for medicine; its need to be preserved.
Methods Systems thinking (or systems theory approach) is a way to look at complexity where the parts are seen as a whole rather than individual parts. It is a way to simplify complexity while respecting the relationships. Systems thinking can range from the formal logic model or agent model to the informal picture diagram. It is a way to get beyond the silo/linear thinking to look at all the parts and how they interact with the other parts and the environment. Context is an important aspect of the systems thinking. Ecology looks at the connectivity between different parts/different systems.
How do you get into the environmental evaluation field? There are many educational programs to get training in evaluation. Some are generic while other are more specific. Environmental evaluation is a relatively new field. George Washington University has course available for a more in depth look at evaluation/logic modeling. Can get from certificates to doctorates in evaluation for a more formal foundation. Claremont Graduate University is another forum for more training/learning opportunities. Workshops at the AEA (American Evaluators Association). There is the opportunity before the yearly meeting to go to workshops. It is important to note that evaluation is also self learning or peer learning.