Like counsellors and psychologists, program evaluators can spend a significant part of their working day listening to emotionally laden, and sometimes heartbreaking, stories. This can include stories of violence, neglect, and disadvantage.
At times, our work can also be emotionally sensitive due to our own personal histories echoing those issues we are working on. We know from experience that a strong emotional connection with participants enhances our work, but we are also aware of the impact this emotional connection can have on evaluators in terms of their own emotional wellbeing.
The Urbis Economic and Social Advisory team has a fantastic culture of encouraging personal self-care and embedding team-care strategies into our working practices. To present a paper on these issues to the recent Australasian Evaluation Society conference in Perth, we talked with our colleagues about their experiences.
We heard stories of difficult moments, but there was a general feeling that we are all privileged to be exposed to a fuller range of human experience and emotions than we might if we were working in some other professions. We also heard stories of innovative approaches to personal self-care and set out to document the ways in which professional self-care is undertaken within the Urbis team.