My friends like to joke that I am the perfect combination of my parents. My dad is a math professor and my mom is a therapist. Me? I’m a social worker that does evaluation.
During most of my time in grad school, I was convinced that I was going to go into the field of domestic and sexual violence prevention. It’s extremely needed and I’m passionate about it. I still think I would have been very happy if I had chosen that path. But my skills were better utilized elsewhere.
And then, during my last semester of grad school, I took the required evaluation course. My eyes were open. My brain was turning. There was no turning back. My professor became my mentor and I got a job as an evaluator soon after graduation.
So what caught my attention and drew me into the field of evaluation?
I am passionate about social justice. I see injustices in this world and I want to figure out how to address them. Like many others, I went into the field of social work to make a difference. I just wasn’t sure how to make a difference or where my skills would be optimized.
Evaluation is an act of social justice. At the heart of evaluation, we are looking for ways to better address social problems. How can this local, non-profit organization better serve their clients? What is the best practice for helping underprivileged clients achieve their goals? How does this policy affect the population? These are just a few questions I ask myself everyday (and there are many more questions that evaluators ask).
Evaluation is about people and data. Stereotypically, social workers are thought to work individually with clients to help them solve their individual problems. That is not my strong suit. It’s important work, but it is not where my strengths lie. However, as an evaluator, you do have to be able to connect with people to understand the needs of your client, to collect data, and to disseminate your results effectively. And evaluation is also about data. What does the data say about a program, organization, initiative, policy, or campaign? There is no evaluation without data.
Evaluation was where I could use my passion for social justice and helping people, with my skills of data analysis, critical thinking, and research. I can make a difference in the lives of potentially millions of people by helping organizations better understand their programs and improve their effectiveness.
That’s a powerful personal mission if I ever heard one…