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By MYRON LOVE Gerry Kaplan will tell you that he is not your usual social worker. “Unlike most social workers I’m in private practice providing research and evaluation services, and I focus on both quantitative and qualitative analyses.”


Kaplan is a graduate of both the University of Manitoba and University of British Columbia (from where he earned a Master of Social Work degree in 1981), also the son of Bess and the late Phil Kaplan. He began his social work career working for Family and Children’s Services of the District of Kenora.
 “I quickly realized that casework was not for me,” he recalls. “An opportunity arose in the district for someone to coordinate a project designed to prevent child abuse and neglect. I jumped at the chance and applied, thinking that I had no possibility of getting the position. It turned out that I was the only applicant. I was charged with evaluating the project and, from that point on, became more and more involved in project development in the healthcare and social services fields. I found that I liked doing research and evaluations as much as program development.

In 1988, Kaplan was presented with an opportunity to work as a Research and Evaluation Specialist with the Government of Manitoba. Then, in 1990 he began a ten-year stint coordinating research and information systems for the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.
 “We generated a lot of data during my time at the AFM,” he recalls. “We did 35 studies during my time there, which included researching the characteristics of the people we were seeing, including their strengths and challenges, and their objectives for attending our programs. We evaluated what programs were working and where improvements may be needed. We also studied the effects of drugs in conjunction with other illnesses some of our clients may have had. We evaluated our services in terms of our clients’ gender, ages, education, and other variables.
 
Much though he found his work at the AFM fulfilling, he left the organization in 2000. “I had been doing some consulting work on the side during my time with the Province of Manitoba in 1988,” he says. “In 2000 I was invited to take on an evaluation that really interested me, so I decided to take the plunge and become a full time independent consultant. I felt that it was time to move on.”
Over 30 years (and counting), he has built up a lengthy clientele which cuts across socioeconomic, ethnic and religious lines. They include provincial and federal government departments, school divisions, Indigenous programs and organizations, community groups, employee rehabilitation programs, employment services, and many others.
While most are based in Winnipeg and Manitoba, he has also tackled projects for Federal Government departments and such diverse bodies elsewhere as the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC), Baptist Women of Western Canada and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
 
“I have clients with whom I have been working for 10 years and more,” he says. “I get to know their programs and staff quite well, which helps me to better meet their needs.” He’s also “always on the lookout for interesting studies, and the opportunity to evaluate programs and organizations that may be difficult to evaluate. I like the challenge.”

 About a year ago, Kaplan took on a new voluntary assignment in addition to his regular workload when he assumed the presidency (a two-year term) of the Manitoba Chapter of the Canadian Evaluation Society. “I have been a member of the board for five years and served as vice-president for two years before becoming president,” he says.
The Society has almost 2,000 members nationwide, including approximately 60 members in the Manitoba chapter. The Society, he notes, provides networking opportunities, professional development and a directory of members “We also provide advocacy for the field,” he adds. “Not everybody understands the importance of evaluations.”
 
In the Jewish community, Kaplan is on the board of the Simkin Centre.
 Although in his mid 60s now, the still-youthful-looking, Kaplan continues to look ahead. “I love doing what I am doing,” he says.

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