from: "Reinventing Citizenship: The Practice of Public Work," by
the staff and partners of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship,
© 1995 by Minnesota Extension Service and Hubert H. Humphrey Institute
of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.
is public evaluation?
is the ability to pose a problem and assess how effective you have
been in addressing it. It requires a conscious application of ideas
to practice, and is a learned art. Public evaluation is intended
to develop the civic confidence and capacities of citizens.
is the concept and practice of public evaluation important in a
is an important part of making our public work, and the places associated
with our work, schools for self-governance, or citizenship.
usually means someone from the outside coming in to tell you what
you did wrong. The evaluator is seen as being objective, or not
having a stake in the outcome. Although outside assessments are
often useful, evaluation is even more important as an art we learn
to do ourselves in our work on a continuing basis.
brings seriousness to public work. It directs our work toward
larger goals or a mission. Without evaluation our work too often
becomes a series of unrelated activities leading to failure or
is also a way of creating more democratic ownership of knowledge.
In an age of information, what one knows, or the categories of knowledge
with which one frames action, forms the basis of authority and validity
in the larger world. Too often the framing of public work and the
naming of lessons from it is left to experts at the top of the information
hierarchy. Through a more democratic practice of evaluation, this
knowledge can become a resource more broadly used. Public evaluation
is one way citizens and citizen-professionals can work together
to consciously create and name the categories or concepts that drive
should we evaluate and who should be involved? What format should
is about consciously knowing what is happening, what has happened,
and what should happen. Evaluation, then, should take place whenever
you (as an individual or group) need to learn from your actions,
or to redirect work to better accomplish a collective mission. In-depth
evaluation is especially important for those most closely associated
with the planning of an action or strategy, and those whose leadership
is being developed.
can be used:
- At the end of meetings
Did we accomplish our goals? What tasks were assigned to whom?
What else needs to be done? What do we need to talk about next
- After larger public meetings
Did we accomplish our goals? How well did we play our roles?
What did we gain or lose in the event? What were the power dynamics?
The self-interests? Did the event meet the self-interests of staff,
key players? What need to be done to follow up?
- To evaluate specific strategies
See questions above.
- To evaluate the work as a whole at different
our purposes and goals? Did we meet them? Were they realistic?
Did others become more important? What roles were we playing and
how well have we played them? What could we do to improve our
individual and collective work? What have we learned from the
involving significant individual or group energy, resources, or
credibility usually generate strong emotions as well. Emotions should
be named because they are an important part of public work. But
they should be separated from the analysis during evaluation.
about evaluating individuals?
We need to
recognize that many people seek or avoid public life as a reaction
to their own personal history. Therefore public critique can be
very emotionally jarring if it is not artfully done. In particular,
the work, problem, event, or goals need to be the focus of critique,
not the character of the person being evaluated. It can be enormously
freeing for the individual to have public discussion of their actions
so that unstated opinion does not become the operating mode of the
group. Most importantly, evaluation allows for public capacity development.
Project, an initiative of Project Public Life, has developed a set
of rules for public evaluation of individuals:
Always claim your thought or critique by saying
"I think/feel . . ."
your critique within the framework of the larger outcome of the
This keeps the focus upon public outcome rather than personal
issues. The purpose of pubic evaluation is to be more effective
in attaining your collective goals or mission. Personal critique
is not the purpose of public evaluation.
accountable for posing another option if you disagree with one
This clarifies that your concern is the public outcome, and
you are not responding from personal opinion. It also signals
that you are accountable to the collective, public mission or
goals of the organization/group.
person critiqued must acknowledge that he or she has heard the
that the purpose of evaluation is to learn from experience
It is not to affix blame.
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