Where are we headed, and is this the best way of getting there?

I think a lot about these two questions: Where are we headed, and is this the best way of getting there? It’s a balance, to be able to be reflexive while continuing to journey forth.

A big topic I’ve been  thinking about these days is evaluation for nonprofits, and the proposition that someone made to me: Can’t everyone use arts-based evaluation in their work? Isn’t the point of arts-based evaluation that it’s easy and anyone can do it? 

Implied in these questions was a searching desire to help cash-strapped, tired, overburdened nonprofits find joy and conviviality in evaluation – in hopes, I suppose, that they feel they can do it, and that everyone does it ‘better’ from now on.

Implied also, I think, generally by most thinkers everywhere in the sector, is the notion that nonprofits don’t evaluate enough. Or they don’t evaluate the right way; they could measure more strategically.

Maybe the parallel is this: In our individual lives, we seek a balance between making conscious choices and not being overly self-conscious to the point of self-sabotage. The popular answer these days seems to be about embracing ‘mindfulness.’

What if organizationally, the key to our evaluation woes is simply mindspace ? Clear the decks once a day to not ask questions or seek solutions, but to be aware of each other without judgment.

I wonder if there is something to be said about the wholesale offer of prepackaged, fun, easy ‘solutions’ to a systemic issue. Like convenient, nutritious, calorie-conscious microwave dinners to address rising obesity… Good? Not good? Good enough? A stepping stone to great?

I’m interested in arts-based evaluation because we know that the lens we elect to use constructs reality at the same time as it offers a view of it. So if we only use non-arts lenses to examine issues, we will continue to only see reality from narrow, limiting perspectives. I am interested in holistic approaches to social change. When we talk about a human-centred approach to designing for social innovation – what used to be known as social progress – that approach must include the arts because it is through the arts that humans access, manifest and share the ineffable, intangible aspects of human existence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *