To Delia, Who Failed on Principles

Principles illuminate our path and guide as at decision points. It’s worth taking the time to become aware of our principles, keep the ones we want, discard the ones we don’t, and create new ones. Otherwise we wind up on a path that makes us lose a week of sleep and wonder why our nights are so troubled.

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What's love got to do with it?

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Everything. Love has everything to do with everything. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t want to be loved, to know they are lovable, to have people who want to be loved by them.

Often, when I am working with people in educational or human services settings, I have been told, “I love my kids, but don’t tell anyone.” Or, “I hug the young people I work with even though I’m not supposed to.” It’s as though there is a belief that adults can’t love the young people they work with and still maintain health boundaries and relationships. That they can’t hug them without the hug becoming inappropriate.

This, of course, is ludicrous. Many litigious and more generous cultures from around the world and across time have found ways to love the people they work with, young and old.

A recent Urban Review letter from the Editors called out the danger of deficit narratives that make some students, typically black and brown students, seem as though they need our pity but not our love.

The negative connotations associated with the term "urban" contribute to too much deficit dialogue and too much problematic thinking about urban schools, communities, and community members dominating education research. As such, rarely us it that the term urban is associated with the word "love".

If you work for social change, what is the role of love in your work?


Ohito, E. O., Watson, W., Lyiscott, J., & Sealey-Ruiz, Y. (2019). Postscript: Visions of Love in Urban Schooling, or A Love Letter from the Editors.

What to Remember When Waking

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A Creative Evaluation cohort member shared this poem with us when we were discussing how to design evaluations for both what our clients have planned and what they can't possibly plan.

What to Remember When Waking

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

-- David Whyte

Creative Evaluation Essential Threads

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Michael Quinn Patton's best-selling Utilization-Focused Evaluation was a game changer for me as an evaluator. This briefer book (although still 400+ pages!) provides an overall framework and breaks the framework down into an essential checklist that walks evaluators through the steps necessary for designing and conducting evaluations that actually get used. Not only were the steps useful in helping me think through an evaluation from start to finish, but it helped me do so in the settings I was working in— complex adaptive systems—that require understandings about systems thinking and complexity concepts. I’ve pulled this book of my shelf many times since 2011.

I have done many creative evaluations by now, and they have all been different. Is there a way, I wondered, to describe it as one coherent, albeit complex and ever-changing, process? I let this question bounce around in the deepest parts of my mind and it came to one night. I work up early (something I rarely do), and wrote down 27 steps to doing creative evaluation. It was exhilarating and felt like I was on the right path.

Two months later, after a lot of reflection and revisions, I’ve narrowed it down to 24 essential threads. The move from steps to threads is meant to imply that these threads will be woven together to support change, rather than outlining a narrow, sequential, and linear path. The twenty-four threads fall into five areas:

1: Strengthen Foundations

2: Assess Fit & Build Readiness

3: Co-Create Vision & Learning Plan

4: Act

5: Cultivate

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