Skip to main content

August 5, 2017 Introduction and Invitation

August 5, 2017
Beginning about 1997, I began documenting people's evaluation lives by interviewing them to ask what evaluation is to them and to give examples of them evaluating.

In 2016 I published a book (Volume #150 in the American Evaluation Association's New Directions for Evaluation series) about the evaluation lives of seven professional evaluators. Rather than publish their transcripts, they used our interview experience to create articles which are included in that volume. In 2018, a sequel was published about the evaluation lives of twenty-nine additional professional evaluators (Volume #157) that is available through Wiley. Here is a link to a pre-publication draft and here are the transcripts of my interviews with 24 of those evaluators (all those who gave permission to make them available to the public.

However, my original interest was in understanding and sharing the evaluation lives of every day people (not just professional evaluators) in their personal as well as professional lives. I wanted to do something like Studs Terkel did by sharing quotes from extensive interviews with people about various aspects of their lives (see for example Studs Terkel's 1974 Working: People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do.

After considering alternative ways to share the stories of the people I've interviewed which are not shared in the two publications mentioned earlier, and after consulting with many of them, I've decided to create this blog in which I plan to discuss various lessons I've learned from all the people I've interviewed, as well as my own perspectives. Links to interview transcripts of all those who agreed to let me do so are included: some have their names attached and others will remain anonymous, depending on their preferences. Others may not be linked at all but could be quoted if the participants give permission. Some interviewees didn't want to share their transcript with the world but approved me quoting them anonymously.

If you are interested in sharing your own evaluation life stories, I invite you to reply to this post with a link to a written version that I can add to one of the folders mentioned above or email it to me at Or, if you prefer, contact me and I will happily interview you and transcribe your interview for inclusion if you decide you want to have it as part of this collection.

Thanks for your interest in this project. I'm excited to share these stories participants have told me. And I hope using this blog and these stories will help you explore and improve your own evaluation life and the lives of others you might be influencing.

Looking forward to some helpful dialog!  David Williams


Popular posts from this blog


One of the central conclusions I've been reaching through all the interviews I've conducted is: We all have values that play important roles in all our evaluations whether or not we acknowledge them. Perhaps being aware of our own values and the values of others involved in our evaluation experiences could help us use them more wisely or at least know that we're having to deal with ours and theirs one way or another? The following quotes from Sue Gong's manuscript illustrates this from my evaluation life.

DDW’s commitment to family flows through all his papers.  He brings his interviews back to family life as a core value.  This section includes his personal essays on First Memories and this theological foundations for the values he holds most important.  His thoughts on family are filled with deep commitment, puzzlement, quiet tensions, and ongoing connections.

First Memories Transcriptionist: Marie Stirk Speaker: David Williams December 14, 2011

[0:00] DDW: So this is Dec…
May 21, 2013 Thoughts on this project and how to tailor it based on what I've been learning so far. As I’ve been thinking about this project since participating in class last night, I’ve had several thoughts. I want to get a copy of and review the audio recording that Melissa made from class (my recorder didn’t work) because I agree with her that a lot was said about what I could do with my final chapter in terms of exploring themes I see across the cases and anticipating what readers might do with these stories and themes in moving the field of evaluation forward, particularly in their own practices. 

The students also encouraged me to give more thought to sharing my own journey in bringing these pioneers’ stories to light. I want to do some of that but feel hesitant about doing so for a couple of reasons-  1. I am pretty much in awe of these people and don’t want to be taking anything away from their stories by taking up space with mine, and  2. I feel that my story is full of Gosp…