No worries and no dummies here!
Remember those "For Dummies" books series? If you ever flip through one, you’ll see that the title is misleading. The books aren’t actually for dummies, they’re for people who don’t know much about their topic of choice and want a primer.
As someone who is new to monitoring and evaluation (brand spanking new! two months new!), I often wonder how other people felt when they first entered the field of evaluation. With so many new acronyms, terms and tools that I don't know how to use, how am I ever going to catch up with my colleagues? It takes a succession of baby steps, and I wrote a list of 5 tips to share for baby evaluators.
1. Learn how to organize. Where would I be without Google Drive, Asana and my own network of personal notes? Having systems for organization is an important step in the ladder to keeping a clear mind so that you can focus on your tasks! Everyone is different of course, but having a reliable system that you and your colleagues can easily navigate will save oodles of time, confusion and frustration in the long run.
2. Take on new responsibilities. Especially the topics that you're unfamiliar with or that scare you the most. This is how you gain confidence. I recently agreed to be a part of a local team for a new project, and I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity to develop in this way. There is no easy way, just grab the opportunity when you see it.
3. Learn how to simply analyze quantitative data.
If you're qualitatively-oriented like me, don’t fret at “quantitative.” It doesn't have to be boring or difficult. Flux uses pivot tables a lot. It's an Excel tool that allows you to analyze lots of data quickly and easily. Most people have some familiarity with Excel, so the learning curve for this tool is much less steep than with other software programs, and you likely already have access to Microsoft Office. Practice makes perfect.
4. Get involved! I joined NOLA Eval (our local evaluator's collaborative) within my first few weeks at Flux and I'll also be heading to the American Evaluation Association's annual conference in Washington, DC this year, so I can absorb all the experience, knowledge and perspectives I can get. Communing with like-minded others is a great way to get to know people and develop leadership skills.
5. Read. For the first month, I did a lot of reading on the field of evaluation. Just reading up on evaluation will help you to understand the conceptual background of the field. Knowing history, well-known cases, current topics and key people counts for a lot. Save yourself the awkwardness of pretending to know when someone mentions a well-known evaluator.
Those are all the tips I have for you baby birdies today, so feel free to fly away from the nest, but don't forget to stay tuned for more beginner tips!