Setting the Place

Welcome to Eval en Place! A quick introduction about how this site came about, who I’m writing for, and what’s in this odd name.

Let’s go back to the beginning – well, perhaps not that far back. My name is Brian, and for the last six years my day job1 has been as the founder and principal consultant of a one-person firm focused on program evaluation and strategic planning with non-profit organizations. Off the clock, I enjoy nerding out on things tech – among many, many other things to nerd out about, but that’s a whole other blog or three. My focus since 2003 or so has been primarily in the Apple ecosystem, though I try to keep a toe in the Windows/PC world as well.

Over the years, I found that nerdery colliding with my work on the clock, primarily by way of productivity: as a solo entrepreneur, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important to use one’s time and energy effectively! At the same time, I found myself sharing these little tips, resources, ideas, and insights with those I interact with regularly, including fellow consultants, clients, and family members. After sharing the same tidbit more than once, I had to ask myself “Why don’t I create a blog that shares some of these resources?”

This site is certainly not the first to share tech-related productivity tools, approaches, and the like. If there’s anything unique about Eval en Place (besides the name), I think it would be my perspective I bring as an evaluator. You can define the field a half-dozen different ways, but at its root, evaluation is all about looking at something (be it a social program or a personal workflow), determining what it’s accomplishing, and making recommendations for improvement. It’s an occupational hazard to always have the evaluator hat on, but I’m hoping to use that critical eye here on my own work and tools to improve how I get things done.

If you want the tl;dr version of what this site is about, I’d say it’s a roundup of tools and techniques (in the style of Mac Power Users – one of my favourite podcasts!) by an evaluator who focuses on tools for evaluation practice and the non-profit knowledge-based world generally. On the tech side of things, the primary focus will be on Mac and iOS since that’s where I spend most of my productive time, but I’ll try to include cross-platform options when possible.

What’s in the Name?

Once this idea began coalescing in my head, I knew I needed to come up with a good name. Given the root of my work in evaluation, I started with ideas like “Eval Nerd” or “Eval Geek”, but I ran into some immediate problems. First, a number of those names had already been taken online. Second, they imply that I’m a nerd, geek, or both2 for evaluation, which I totally am but that isn’t the point of this site.

“Lazy Evaluator” was my strongest pick initially: in fact, I have a conference presentation at CES3 2018 with that name where I’ll share a few hints and tricks from this site. Despite using that name there, I was a bit concerned with the negative connotations of the term “lazy”: plus, it just didn’t feel right.

Enter “Eval en Place”. It’s an adaptation of the French term “Mise en place” that is used predominantly in the world of chefs to describe the physical layout, systems, and philosophy/state of mind that they use to succeed in the kitchen. I learned about this concept through Dan Charnas’ book, Work Clean, where he identifies the main components of this system and provides a framework for how us non-culinarians can apply it in our own lives. So, while acknowledging that Eval en Place is not proper French (je m’excuse), I think it covers both the idea of applying mise en place to evaluation and related work, but also how to evaluate and develop one’s place.

What’s Next?

My initial aim is to post here every two to four times a month, with a focus on sharing some of the tools, techniques, systems, and the like that I have found useful in my evaluation practice. I’ll give this a shot for a few months, evaluating as I go (naturally), and then we’ll see from there!

  1. Ok, it’s more of a day/evening/weekend/other-times-as-required job
  2. I’m still not sure exactly what the difference is between these terms, if any: as a result, I’m getting ready for hate mail from both camps :p
  3. Canadian Evaluation Society, not the other CES.

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