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Program Evaluation – from roots to leaves



I’m a big fan of trees. They play a vital role in producing oxygen and collecting carbon dioxide to support life on Earth. They also offer shade on hot, sunny days. It wasn’t until after I completed a program evaluation this spring that I realized they offer me something else.


In between extended periods of sitting to work, I need to move my body. To keep my joints working smoothly, I often go for walks. As my Dad is known to say, “Motion is lotion.” On my walks, I noticed the trees slowly sprouting, gradually extending their leaves to the spring air and sun. This gift of witnessing trees move at their own pace gave me another metaphor. For me, tree growth helps visualize the work process of completing a program evaluation.


Over two months, I worked with a local not-for-profit organization to try and better understand a program they recently completed. We started from the core (trunk) of this program to ask: what story are we trying to tell? From the trunk/core, we shot down to the roots – who are the people we need to talk to? What questions do we need to ask? How will we get the information we’re looking for?


After coming to an agreement on a plan to follow, it was time to gather water and nutrients from the soil – to collect information. I used a combination of three information sources: 1) previous program data provided by the organization, 2) individual interviews and program participants and staff, and 3) a brief survey with program participants.


With nutrients (data) collected, it was time to metabolize them into useful energy – to analyze the data and turn them into a condensed set of findings. Where trees produce leaves, I produced a report.


It’s my hope that this report can be used to collect resources (light) to grow the program in the future.


Throughout this process, my 5 years of experience remotely coordinating a multi-city community-based research program was put to good use. Conducting this program evaluation using online tools all went rather smoothly – even in the early days of the North American part of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, this collaborative work is a good example of one way I engage with the creative quality of water - the Erotic. For one commonly cited view on the Erotic that offers insight into connecting with creative energy, consider reading Audre Lorde’s essay, Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.


I’m happy to offer this program evaluation service again and use my art/research skills to support not-for-profit organizations looking to grow and better understand their programming. If this sounds interesting to you or someone you know, please feel welcome to contact me at info@desmondamiller.com


This blog post is connected to my Spring 2020 newsletter, which was dedicated to the qualities of water. To get the full story, you can subscribe to my newsletter here.

© 2020 Desmond A. Miller