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Performance. Objectives. Goals. Outcomes. Outputs.

These terms might sound interchangeable to the untrained ear, but in the world of evaluation, they can mean very different things. So when Stacey Aidun begins work on a project, her first order of business is defining the terms. “Often we throw those terms out and know they mean good things,” she says, “but are we talking about the same thing?”

By day, Stacey is in charge of the performance management system for the provincial government’s Climate Leadership Plan. It’s a perfect marriage of her current interests (performance and evaluation metrics) and her academic background (she holds a master’s degree in economics from the U of A, and wrote her thesis on environmental changes in Alberta). “I’ve always been attracted to the concept of working in the public sector, where you’re working for a common good.”

For Stacey, evaluation is a true mix of science and art. It requires a clear, rigorous methodology during a project’s initial design, combined with the ability to be flexible and creative when applying that work in practice. At the same time, the Beaumont resident sees evaluation as an ongoing, never-fully-finalized process — and that’s where public engagement comes in. The more people you have at the table, the better your methodology, and the more precise your data will be as a result.

“Collaboration always brings a better end state,” Stacey says. “It can be very difficult. It can be very challenging. But if everybody is in it for the best solution, you’ll only arrive at that by incorporating a diverse group.”

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