Last week we ran our first ACE SEF Review event in London and spent the day exploring self-evaluation with a group of brilliant individuals. There was a lot of debate, questions and suggestions leading to shared knowledge, best practice and straight forward networking.
One key thing that struck me as we progressed throughout the day was the different terminology we use and how most people are used to working with evaluation. For this project we are looking specifically at self-evaluation and by that we mean evaluating ourselves, or holding a mirror up to review our own practice. This could be as an individual and sometimes be referred to as self-reflection, or as an organisation which is sometimes called an ‘organisational health check’ but could equally be an informal ‘away day’. The point is that we are giving ourselves feedback on what we do, how we do it and why we exist.
But for some people, self-evaluation is something different. For some, it is about going through an evaluation process by yourselves without the intervention of an external consultant or evaluator but where this evaluation process is focussed on collecting feedback from external sources. What seemed to emerge from our discussions last week is that a tool or resource for this purpose is something very much in demand from the cultural sector.
It was clear that many more people had in depth experience of the sort of evaluation that draws on feedback from outside and that fewer people had experience of a ‘holding the mirror up’ process. It might be that this has not featured in compulsory reporting processes to funders or that capacity has not allowed for this type of reflection.
Some people might argue that these two aspects of evaluation – evaluating oneself and doing evaluation by oneself – should be integrated and that for organisational future planning they should be considered in tandem. What we start to get is a 360° view of ourselves which includes our own viewpoint and that of others. This might be the best way of informing our progress as individuals and organisations. Our focus for this project is to find out and advise on the tools, frameworks and resources that can best support us to do this without it becoming burdensome.
We believe that evaluation – the 360° kind – should be a fluid and embedded part of everyone’s development in the sector and we want to collaborate to find the best way of enabling this to happen.