Nova Scotia Evaluator Origin Story

From Craig’s previous evaluation blog site: (, which has now become this site (!

Today I shared Thanksgiving dinner with an international student from Vietnam as part of Engage Nova Scotia’s #sharethanksgiving campaign. The conversation spanned many topics including the reason for the effort- addressing the lack of young people staying in the province, and presumably trying at attract others to stay after their studies. The decision to move back to Nova Scotia after being away for almost a decade, for work and university, was not an easy decision for me, but one that I am happy to have made. This past weekend the correctness of my decision became clear when my family was able to visit and we shared Thanksgiving dinner together.


As mentioned in my previous blog post (Evaluation Culture in Nova Scotia) the need to address the exodus of young people from the province, as well as to explore how to create a strong economy to retain people, is an area where I believe program evaluation skills can prove useful. As a new board member with the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Evaluation Society I am happy to have come away from our September meeting with action plans in place to enable us to reach out to organizations in the province more proactively then in the past. The theme of “bringing together” has been highlighted by Engage Nova Scotia, the Ivany Report (see Evaluation Culture in Nova Scotia), the Canadian Evaluation Society Nova Scotia Chapter, and by other Nova Scotia Change Leaders (e.g., Tim Merry), and is a theme that I bring to my own work in evaluation.




My #EvaluatorOriginStory began as a young adult involved with the Royal Canadian Air Cadet program. I was tasked with overseeing youth instructors in the program and I began to have their trainees anonymously evaluate their teaching, upon which I formed feedback to all instructors based on best-practices in instructing for the program. I didn’t know it at the time- but I was evaluating my own area of the program!

Once I saw the Applied Social Psychology program at the University of Saskatchwan, with internships and practicums available, I applied. Many of my friends had achieved successs with these “hands on” opportunities in their own degrees, so I wanted a program with these opportunities too. Little did I know the field of evaluation would have so very many opportunities available!

My first class in program evaluation laid the groundwork of how to use the techniques I already knew from other classes- like survey design and focus  group facilitation- to be used by community organizations. This was another element that I wanted from my degree (i.e., use the knowledge of academia to be useful beyond itself and its closed access publications).

In Saskatoon I was the Training Officer of a local Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron so I got permission to ask the cadets, parents, and staff of the squadron what changes they wished to see in the program to inform my training plan for the coming year. I asked them using an on-line survey, and knowledge from my survey design class to develop the measure! This was the tool that added to the already growing success of the squadron- by very much acknowledging that the youth and parents liked to have a voice- and thus revealed another advantage of program evaluation. In the design phase of the survey the voice of all staff and senior cadets was heard too, with their feedback changing the questions that were asked. The “bringing together” of voices allowed our squadron to double in size in two years– not only due to this effort, but in large part to the ability of the staff to listen to what people had to say and to examine how we operated.

I had gone from a small scale to a large scale evaluation effort within the cadet program and I got to see the resulting growth of the program, at that point I was hooked on evaluating what works based on who has a stake in the outcome!


This month I am starting discussions with a food bank in the Annapolis Valley to evaluate how they operate. This is the start of what I hope with be a long-time engagement in community development efforts in the province. There are some great people with whom I have already connected with and follow (i.e., @MoreCaptain on Twitter). I hope to connect more in the coming months to the community development leaders in the province and to become more embedded in the efforts to examine what we are doing, who needs to have a voice, what lessons can be learned from elsewhere- many of the skills that evaluators have- and to “bring together” our province to ensure young Nova Scotians, like myself, can remain.

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