Do you have to file annual reports? How much do you love doing them?
Did I hear someone say “no comment?”
In January, I challenged the outreach librarians of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Greater Midwest Region (NN/LM GMR) to experiment with a reflective exercise designed to add some inspiration to their annual reporting. The setting was a monthly webinar attended by librarians who led outreach activities at their libraries to promote health information access and use. Because their libraries received funding from the NN/LM GMR, they were required to submit annual reports for their funded activities.
My charge was to teach this group something about evaluation. In response, I presented them with this short (about 15 minute) exercise to be used when they began preparing their annual reports.
When preparing your report, answer these questions. Then write a short paragraph based on your answers and add it to your annual report:
- Describe one of the best experiences you had this year conducting outreach for the NN/LM.
- What do you value most about that experience?
- What do you wish could happen so that you had more experiences like this?
You may recognize these as the three signature questions of the basic Appreciative Inquiry (AI) interview. Appreciative Inquiry is a practice of influencing organizational change by identifying peak experiences and discovering ways to build on them. The book Reframing Evaluation through Appreciative Inquiry (Preskill and Catsambas, Sage, 2006) provides descriptions and examples of how to apply AI to every part of the evaluation process.
My partners for this webinar were host Jacqueline Leskovec, Outreach, Planning and Evaluation Coordinator, and presenter Carmen Howard, who is the Regional Health Sciences Librarian and Visiting Assistant Professor from UIC Library of the Health Sciences Peoria. Carmen headlined the webinar with her presentation about the Nursing Experts: Translating the Evidence (NExT) Guide, which provides resources on evidence-based practice to nurses. Good sport that she was, Carmen helped me demonstrate the exercise to our audience by participating in an AI interview about her outreach project. The outreach librarians then brainstormed ways to use the three questions to prepare their own NN/LM reports. We also talked about how to add their reflective statements to their annual reports, which are entered into an online system.
Soon after that webinar, Carmen wrote an entry about her experience using the three questions that appeared in the NN/LM GMR’s blog The Cornflower. Here is my favorite quote from her entry:
“These three simple questions which only take about 10-15 minutes to answer forced me to stop and reflect on the NExT project. Rather than just being focused on what was next on the to-do list, I was looking back on what had already been accomplished, and better yet, I was thinking about the good stuff.”
The NN/LM GMR outreach librarians have not yet filed their 2016 annual reports, so I can’t tell you how many rose to my challenge. (This exercise was a suggestion, not a requirement.) One other outreach librarian did send an email to say she was using the three questions to have a reflective group discussion with other librarians who participate in NN/LM outreach activities.
I would like to extend the challenge to our readers who may be facing annual reports. Try this exercise and see if you don’t start thinking and writing differently about your efforts over the past year.
If you want to know more about Appreciative Inquiry, we highly recommend this source:
- Preskill H, Catsambas TT. Reframing Evaluation through Appreciative Inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006.
You also might be interested in the OERC’s other blog posts about Appreciative Inquiry:
- Simply Elegant Evaluation: Appreciative Inquiry at NN/LM MAR
- The OERC’s Appreciative Inquiry Project: Seeking Strength-Based Change
- What Is “Appreciative Inquiry”?
- How to Write a Mission Statement without Losing Your Mind.
If you are interested in earning some continuing education credits from the Medical Library Association while trying your hand at an Appreciative Inquiry project, reach this post: Appreciative Inquiry of Oz: Building on the Best in the Emerald City