By Amy Wilson
Executive Director, The Action Coalition on Human Trafficking Alberta
I think a lot about whether what I am doing is urgent vs. important. Perhaps because balancing this is an ongoing challenge for me. It is interesting because I do not seem to have a problem with this in my personal life (I will leave the messy floor to take the kids to the park every single time!) Perhaps at work I feel the pressure of having more people relying on me and how the impacts of my prioritizing affect them. At home I just put my slippers on and don’t feel the crumbs, but at work if I don’t do my coding of expense claims, people don’t get their cheques. Or maybe it is just my lack of experience, and with time I will better understand what I can put off or delegate.
It was with this in mind that I signed up for Eval Lab. One never feels as though they have a day a month to focus on the work equivalent of going to the park, but it is something I need to be doing. We don’t have a consistent process for evaluating our work, and it is essential for both learning and accountability. I thought that if I sign up for this, I will force myself to prioritize something important that often does not receive the attention it is due. I have been reflecting this month on whether my strategy was successful. As I am writing this the afternoon before it was meant to be done, you may be drawing your own conclusions about my success. I have also tended to do the readings the day of morning before the class which is also telling. Not of how I value the course, I hope, but of whether I am successfully negotiating the important/urgent dance.
I wondered if I can use this to try to apply some of what I am learning. The identified issue is a need at ACT Alberta for a more intentional internal approach to evaluation. The key barriers are time, resources and expertise. The positive side is that, unlike most of the work we do, I have at least some degree of control over the barriers/preconditions. I can (theoretically) manage my time and support the team with creating time and space to develop an evaluation-friendly work environment. We can prioritize learning. The resources aspect is just the nature of working in non-profit, and there are generally ways to massage a budget to support evaluation. I think the biggest barrier is time. Or rather, getting mired in the day to day and losing sight of this larger vision. Particularly when this vision is more about a way of working than the work itself. Which brings me back to urgent vs. important. My theory is that my dedicating time to professional development will result in some change organization-wide. Whether this approach is successful or not, we’ll see. Ask me in a year. Or five!