I’m not being coy when I say that it creeps me out when people refer to me (or anyone else) as an expert. It always holds an implication that the person in question has finished learning about the subject and it seems to me it shuts down the requirement to listen, doubt, and drive our understanding of things past the point where it is comfortable — to the point where we sometimes prove ourselves wrong or allow that others may do so.
The Spring 2006 issue is about evaluation. It takes up that hoary subject as one of many forms of research that should exist inside any evolved nonprofit. The article linked below lays out nine forms of research that I have seen at work in organizations that excel and it describes organizations and situations in which we have seen them function.
The collection of articles is really about organizational learning and it takes it up in a way that does not assume that you need a “learning officer.” Rather, it asserts that you need an intense hunger for excellence and accuracy and that you have humility about what you do not yet know and should learn.
One of my personal favorites among these articles is a profile of Betsy Santiago-Layne who became a researcher when she was 19 years old, homeless, and in a shelter with her two children. Her description about learning how to ask questions and what it did for her and those around her is moving on many levels. It is also indicative of the intelligence we may be wasting in and around our programs by not engaging people in research and development.
We have a number of other articles in the issue about engaging constituents in research — and many vivid stories that illustrate how that works.
So, I humbly submit this article for your perusal. I know that I may have missed some points — please write back to us and enrich this picture with your own observations and experiences. As always, our knowledge is built by you, our readers.