**3 min read**
Craig and Karen Russon have been highly active professionals over the years, perhaps best known for their hard work behind the scenes in the development of many international evaluation initiatives and networks - initiating and/or helping to steward several evaluation organizations such as IOCE and the Geneva Evaluation Network. Craig also initiated the famous Silent Auction of the American Evaluation Association and was a Board member of the American Evaluation Association (AEA). They share their extensive combined wisdom about balancing work and life as evaluation professionals.
Top Tip 1. Do not compromise your standards of integrity. Janis Joplin is famously quoted as saying, “Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” Be true to yourself. Do what you feel is right and honest in your work, though it may not be the easiest or most convenient. At the end of the day, we all have to live with ourselves.
Top Tip 2. Put evaluation in perspective. Decision-makers and policy-makers rely on multiple sources of information coming from constituents, audits, evaluation, political pressures and personal preferences or intuition. The evaluations that we conduct are just one stream of information that contributes to a course of action. Manage your expectations for what your report will do.
Top Tip 3. Cultivate diverse interests. Werner Heisenberg, author of the Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty in quantum physics, is famously quoted as saying
“It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking, the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet. These lines may have their roots in quite different parts of human culture, in different times or different cultural environments or different religious traditions: hence if they actually meet, that is, if they are at least so much related to each other that a real interaction can take place, then one may hope that new and interesting developments may follow."
It is therefore important to have diverse interests. You may be able to relate some of these interests back to evaluation, thereby improving your own practice and enriching the evaluation field.
Top Tip 4. Nurture relationships. At the end of your career, the good friends you have made will be more gratifying than the articles you have published.
A corollary of that is family first. Family should come before your career. Jobs come and go but family does not.
Top Tip 5. The universe unfolds the way that it is supposed to. Do not be too disappointed if you do not get the job for which you had desperately hoped. Maybe it was not meant to be. Rest assured that you will end up in the places you are supposed to be, at the times when you are supposed to be there.
Having said that, keep applying, keep doing. The fact that the universe unfolds as it is supposed to does not preclude us from having to search out our karma. We cannot wait for destiny to come to us; we have to go and find it.
Top Tip 6. Allow space for thoughts to develop into ideas. Be regular and orderly in your life . . .(“so that you may be violent and original in your work” – Flaubert).
Having a ‘boring’ life is not necessarily a bad thing. You do not waste all of your psychic energy dealing with interpersonal dramas thereby freeing your mind for creative thinking.
Top Tip 7. Maintain a balance in your life. Pay attention to mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your life. It will help you to be better evaluators . . . and better people.
Take care of yourself. Eat healthfully, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep. Remember you are in this for the long run.
Craig and Karen Russon met as Peace Corps volunteers many years ago and have been professional and personal partners ever since. Craig is a Senior Evaluation Officer with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, previously working in academia and philanthropy. He holds an MA, MBA, and a PhD. Karen obtained a Masters degree in Public Administration with a focus on International Development. Her interest in the role of evaluation in organizational development has been realized as co-founder and president of Evaluation Capacity Development Group.