Oberscherli, SwitzerlandOberscherli, Switzerland

Roads to Insight

To be honest: Moments of concentrated self reflection on challenging evaluation issues in isolation have rarely been very conclusive and insightful. Obviously, humans' heads are round-shaped in order to make thoughts turn in circles. This is particularly true when we're trapped in stress to deliver or distracted by underlying anxieties of a more powerful nature. So, generating useful ideas, lessons or conclusions is not a matter of course. It requires a conducive environment in which such insights are likely to emerge, where loose ended pieces of reflection find new linkages, where thoughts begin to converge in a particular direction, a pathway to learn.

So what are the ingredients of such a conducive environment in which the creative part of an assessment or review may unfold? First, the understanding that my own universe of thinking is but one piece in  a wider puzzle of reflections leaves room for adopting plausible arguments around me. Second, in order to access different views on the same issue, I actively search for and exchange with people and institutions over the issues of my concern. Certainly, the consultation of quality literature and scientific data to calibrate emerging results and viewpoints is a permanent feature of this process. Third, my own set of socio-cultural values and principles is providing me guidance and orientation in filtering out what may matter for the solution of the issues at hand and what not. And fourth, intellectual reasoning and judgment is tightly linked to my own life experience.

In short, I have learnt that the most valuable results of reflection related to evaluation issues have emerged in situations of discoursive interaction, either with the beneficiaries of development programmes, with competent peers or specialised institutions. By exposing my own way of assessment to their often alternative perspectives. And by taking the risk to be questioned, relativized or even ridiculed in the eyes of knowledgeable and often equally concerned discussion partners. Exposure and progressive triangulation of one's own learnings eventually contributes to more rock-solid insights.

Lesson from this? Never evaluate alone! Unless you consider that you're the oracle on a particular subject, that you know the solutions already, that you have no time to waste on consultations and the other 500 excuses. But in all these cases, we are not talking about 'evaluation'.
                                                                        Martin Sommer
                                                                        Owner Consultant devolutions Ltd.