When I first started making art, I couldn’t afford canvases – so I used whatever I could find.  Old bits of paper, old bits of cardboard, polystyrene pizza bases, broken clocks, chipped plates, plastic packaging…

This particular piece of art, which is called Spiralling Into Life and was part of my ‘in another light’ collection, was created from an empty plastic chocolate box, a piece of gold foil, some acrylic paint, and sea-glass collected from a Scottish beach.

I love sea-glass.  It’s little pieces of broken glass that have been thrown around by the sea until the sharp edges are all worn smooth.  I find that a good analogy for life…

But I’m getting off the point, which is that when you want to make art, or when you want to create projects that exceed everyone’s expectations (which is just another way of making art) you have to start from where you are. 

It sounds obvious – where else would you start from?  But it’s all to easy to create projects that are all about making someone else’s dreams come true, especially when that ‘someone else’ is holding the purse strings, and go on for year after year without hitting the targets that matter to you.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, but I’m now – in my 40th year – realising the importance of starting with what I’ve already got.  With what’s inside.  With the things that matter most to me even if that doesn’t match anyone else’s idea of who I am and what I should be doing.  (Which is why I’ve recently come out as transgender…but that’s another blog post for another day!)

Of understanding where I am, right now, and taking the next small step.

That’s why you have to evaluate, before you can envision or evolve – and in order to evaluate what matters most, you have to ‘start on the inside and work your way out’, as the singer Ani DiFranco puts it.

Understanding where you are, right now, is where it all begins.

And once you’ve recognised that – once you’ve truly reflected on what makes you tick, what excites you most about this project idea, and what you’d love to see happening in a ‘best case scenario’ – you can work with your delivery partners, funders and service users to learn together about what excites them.

The magic of Multi-Level Evaluation is that the process of creating an evaluation framework can become a journey of discovery… a way of seeing your project ‘in another light’, and building strong bonds of friendship right from the outset.  Because at the end of the day, we’re all human… well, mostly.

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