Why must evaluations be beautiful?
A. Rafael Johnson and I presented at the MESI Spring Traning last week. Our session Developmental Evaluation for Social Justice: The Role of Truth, Beauty & Justice made the argument that truth, beauty, and justice are essential elements of a social-justice oriented developmental evaluation because any persuasive argument for social change is characterized by these elements.
This is important to me because my personal evaluation belief is that evaluations should just be used, they should be used to support social change towards a world that is more just and equitable.
We made a pretty fantastic handout (if I do say so myself) that included quotes from some of my favorite evaluators. In one of these quotes, Jane Davidson argues that beauty may be the key to validity.Michael Quinn Patton used the same quote in his closing address. Given that it struck a chord in all of us, I thought I would share it below.
True “beauty” in evaluation is a clearly reasoned, well-crafted, coherent evaluation story that weaves all three of these together to unlock both truth and justice with breathtaking clarity. . . . House, in his 1980 book Evaluating with Validity, argued that truth trumps beauty and justice trumps them both. In other words, get the social justice priorities right, deliver valid answers relative to those, and then convey it all beautifully and believably.
I’d like to flip House’s idea on its head. What if beauty wasn’t merely about how well the evaluative story is told? What if the process of creating a clear, compelling, and coherent (beautiful) evaluative story was in fact the key to unlocking validity (truth) and fairness (justice)? (2014, p. 43)
Are you an evaluator, program staff, or general change-making in the world? What's the role of beauty in your work? What's different when beauty is present, or isnt?