Happy New Year, friends and colleagues! It is with great passion and honor that I serve as your president during 2015 – the International Year of Evaluation.
I joined AEA in 1987 as a student member, and have been very active in AEA service and a regular presenter at AEA meetings for more than 25 years. I am currently professor and director of the Claremont Evaluation Center and dean of the Schools of Social Science, Policy & Evaluation, and Community & Global Health at Claremont Graduate University. I also continue to develop and lead one of the most extensive graduate programs specializing in evaluation.
One of the most meaningful AEA service positions I have had in recent years is co-director of the Graduate Education Diversity Initiative (GEDI) program. It has been a transformative experience for me to mentor the next generation of diverse evaluation leaders. Our work together has focused on deepening the evaluation profession’s capacity to work in racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse settings, and on the implementation of the concepts and principles of AEA’s Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation.
This year, AEA has an extraordinary opportunity to join hands with the global evaluation community to advance the profession and transdiscipline of evaluation. More than 30 voluntary organizations of professional evaluation (VOPEs), including the American Evaluation Association (AEA), EvalPartners, U.N. agencies, and donor agencies, have declared 2015 the International Year of Evaluation. So far, more than 22 events have been planned across the world. AEA will be hosting the global evaluation community in Chicago on November 9-14 at our annual conference. We are inviting evaluators, evaluation scholars, students, evaluation sponsors, and evaluation users from all around the world to teach us about evaluation’s successes. This invigorating discussion will take place engaging the theme of Exemplary Evaluations in a Multicultural World: Learning from Evaluation’s Successes Around the Globe.
This is one AEA Conference you want to make sure to attend. Click here to watch a video in which I discuss AEA 2015.
I am Lacy Fabian, Ph.D., healthcare quality specialist at MITRE and board member of the Eastern Evaluation Research Society, a local AEA affiliate.
Employing a vision and values in daily life is fundamental to an ethical and professional practice. AEA recognizes specific values that are relevant to the fields of evaluation and education, and within my daily activities I combine these with my own personal values to create a broader vision that shapes my professional practice. However, shaping your professional identity begins long before you get settled into your chosen career.
Indeed, for me, the cultural nuances of the profession began to unfold in graduate school. Even this early on, decisions need to be made: How will I approach authorship? What competitive practices am I willing to undertake to achieve advancement? How will I handle difficult discussions with students about their performance?
As I transitioned out of academia and into private practice, I began to research guidelines and model rules promulgated by professional societies, such as AEA, to better understand where and how my personal values intersected with the standards of my chosen profession. It was important not to lose sight of either as I grew professionally and began making decisions that impacted my life, as well as the lives of others. Knowing that I have a foundation in values lets me navigate each day of meetings, phone calls, and strategic planning with comfort that I am guided by an overarching set of principles that leads me to make sound, ethical decisions that advance the profession and benefit the people it serves.
Consider the example of having a difficult talk with an evaluation client about desired outcomes and available resources. Without professional values, the discomfort of the situation may lead you to take the path of least resistance — even if this ultimately has long-term, negative effects for you, your firm, this client, and even other clients and the community at large. However, when you look to, and trust in, your guiding principles, the right decision practically makes itself. Giving due weight to professional values in the decision-making process doesn’t guarantee that misfires won’t occur or differences won’t arise, but it does provide a foundation to support and achieve an ethical outcome. This can be particularly valuable for engaging in dialogue with others who might otherwise allow conflicting interests to take control.
My professional values are always with me, and I use them as a personal compass and as teaching tools as often as possible. Realizing that there are more (and better) alternatives than initially meet the eye, or that the facts alone might not be enough to find a solution, can be a very humbling experience. Professional values, like AEA’s, provide a framework that can be applied in all types of circumstances. They are a resource for creating a professional identity and encouraging continued efforts to take on the tough decisions that will impact your career, your profession, and your community for years to come.
This winter, AEA had the pleasure of introducing two new Topical Interest Groups, Military and Veteran’s Issues in Evaluation and Latino/a Responsive Evaluation Discourse (LA RED). While the more than 50 Topical Interest Groups are all unique, wide spanning, and diverse in their own way, when it comes to culturally responsive evaluation, LA RED represents the newest TIG collective with an explicit investment in serving the underrepresented Latino/a population in evaluation. I had the opportunity to interview the inaugural chair and program chair of LA RED, Lisa Aponte-Soto (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) and Saúl Maldonado (University of California, Santa Cruz) to learn more about this new TIG and their goals now that they are officially established. Both Aponte-Soto and Maldonado are no stranger to AEA as alumni of the AEA Graduate Education Diversity Internship and as active members (and leaders) in other Topical Interest Groups. Read on to learn more about AEA’s newest diversity TIG.
How did the idea for the LA RED TIG come about and who were the key players in its inception?
Maldonado: LA RED is an extension of AEA’s Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation and its lineage can be traced to the Building Diversity Initiative of the 1990s. The list of people, committees, and programs that have influenced the creation of LA RED is extensive. Several LA RED members regard Rodney Hopson as one key player in LA RED’s inception. Throughout Dr. Hopson’s presidential term, various receptions and celebrations were held highlighting the work of diversity programs in the association. From a personal perspective, I was walking by a table of colleagues at one such reception during Evaluation 2012 in Minneapolis when I heard someone ask, ‘Where are all of the Latinos at?’ I introduced myself as a new GEDI who self-identified as Latino. If memory serves correct, I believe that particular conversation included Art Hernandez, Leah C. Neubauer, Efrain Gutierrez, Lisa Aponte-Soto, Ricardo Gomez, Maria Jimenez, Gabriela Juarez, and Jose Prado.
Aponte-Soto: LA RED emerged from conversations during the AEA Evaluation 2012 annual meeting’s Reception and Silent Auction on Wednesday, October 24, 2012, in Minneapolis, among AEA MIE TIG leaders Leah C. Neubauer, Maria Hernandez, and Gabriela Garcia, who were acknowledging to create a space for connecting with other Latina/o evaluators in AEA. Our leading topic was ‘Where are all of the Latinos at?’ (I’m quoting Leah here). We continued the conversation with Saul the following day at the MIE TIG Networking Reception on Thursday, October 25, 2012, and began having small conversations with others as well, and we enlisted the guidance and support of Art Hernandez, a senior Latino evaluator and AEA member. We felt it was our social responsibility to do something. During this reception, with the blessing and support of Rodney Hopson and Stafford Hood, I made a formal announcement about the intention of formalizing a Latino group/TIG through AEA in conjunction/collaboration with the MIE TIG so that we could give the proper space and attention to Latina/o issues in evaluation given the unique cultural and linguistic differences. From that day forward, Leah began communicating and organizing us via email to present work at the upcoming inaugural CREA conference in Chicago, held in April 2012. Our goals at that time were defined as (1) organizing Latino-focused sessions at the CREA conference in April; (2) developing mentorship opportunities; and (3) hosting specific events, like breakfast/lunch at AEA 2013. We continued engaging others via email and began convening meetings shortly after.
Since then, we have convened meetings, organized presentations, and led AEA365 blogs through the CC Workgroup, MIE TIG, and others, as well as hosting our own week recently. We have also partnered in support with the Latina Researchers Network to disseminate information and works toward pipeline development. Our leadership team has also grown and currently includes Andrea Guajardo, Grisel Robles-Schrader, Josie Serrata, Wanda Casillas, Ricardo Gomez, Lorna Rivera, and Efrain Hernandez. We are all committed AEA members, involved in MIE TIG leadership roles, working in conjunction with the MIE members and leadership to advance culturally responsive evaluation practices as well as the Cultural Competence Working Group, among other leadership sectors within AEA and in our communities with that same core vision to foster CRE practices. This year, even prior to being formalized, we were welcomed by the MIE TIG co-chairs.
What are the goals and mission of LA RED?
Aponte-Soto: Our mission is twofold: First, we want to increase the representation, engagement, and leadership of Latinas/os in the evaluation profession. We also wish to create discourse spaces for Latina/o responsive evaluation (LRE) theory, methods and practices by Latina/o evaluators, as well as cross-cultural evaluators working with Latina/o-serving programs. This is because as part of our engagement in AEA and the field, we have witnessed the void of Latina/o evaluators to collaborate with and discuss issues that were impacting the communities that we serve and the work that we do. We acknowledge commonalities across our challenges and recognize the need for a platform and/or space that would be devoted to attending to these issues. We felt that AEA would provide that ideal space, but knew that we needed to invest much effort and planning beforehand to collectively learn what our needs are to grow as leaders in AEA and the profession and to serve as a voice for and with Latina/o communities to improve programming and practices through evaluation.
It quickly became apparent that there was a broader interest and that part of our efforts would need to champion pipeline development of Latina/o evaluators, which included mentoring and coaching and other support systems. We also recognized the need to establish a learning community of cross-cultural consultants who could facilitate Latina/o responsive evaluation practices.
Below is a list of extant goals:
- Host an AEA think tank to generate ideas around the special content areas and needs of Latina/o-serving evaluators to build on the identified main content areas: Latina/o-focused theory and methodology, Latina/o responsive evaluation practices, and leadership and professional development.
- Host a TIG business meeting to enlist additional members and organize members into committee leadership for 2015-2016.
- Host an AEA365 week.
- Co-host an AEA social during Evaluation 2014 with the MIE TIG and other cultural/ethnic TIGs.
As you can see, many of these milestones have been met and were part of our strategy for aligning ourselves to become an official AEA TIG. Most of these were intended to disseminate information and to begin garnering broader support. Please note that these are evolving as we continue to grow and will shift a little also, now that we are an official TIG. We will be meeting to host a strategic planning meeting late February/March. This will help us further define our goals and objectives as well as the necessary work groups to advance our work.
Maldonado: LA RED considers recruiting, retaining, and training Latina/o leadership in evaluation as well as creating the conditions for a community of practice for all colleagues conducting evaluations with and for Latina/o communities as distinctive, yet complementary, goals. As a new TIG, charting our course from mission, goals, and objectives is an ongoing process. As we collectively negotiate our short-term and long-term goals, we are implementing a systematic process that uses tools and resources from www.aea365.org to document and regularly review articles and artifacts of (dis)agreement in our decision making. I’d like to invite readers interested in learning more about LA RED’s mission and goals to visit perspectives from Wanda Casillas, Andrea Guajardo, Josie Serrata, Martha Hernandez, and Grisel M. Robles-Schrader at http://aea365.org/blog/tag/la-red/.
As the newest diversity TIG, what role do you feel the LA RED TIG will play in diversifying evaluation practice and the evaluators serving the Latino population here at AEA?
Aponte-Soto: We believe that LA RED will contribute significantly to the discourse of culturally responsive evaluation practices. Many of us are part of the AEA Cultural Competency Working Group, but we hope to inform the field not only of the need for a greater representation of Latina/o evaluation consultants, but to also determine what and how to foster academic and professional development opportunities for emerging Latina/o evaluators to contribute to the pipeline and facilitate a trajectory to the leadership level. We hope to achieve this by working through the MSI and GEDI programs to continue providing internship support as well as facilitating internship opportunities. In addition, we also aim to have an impact on the following:
- To serve among the go-to thought leaders to inform the field through AEA portals and journal, including AEA365, coffee breaks, NDE, and annual evaluation meetings
- To continue taking on leadership roles to create spaces to contribute to the conversation
- To leverage the TIG to provide a space for issues affecting Latina/o communities to be brought to the forefront across fields, programs, etc. as co-facilitators and partners of the Latina/o communities we serve
- To provide Latina/o and cross-cross cultural evaluators the space and platform to come together as a group/TIG to network and build camaraderie and fellowship
- To partner cross-culturally to maximize our efforts and learning across disciplines and cultures and to do so by collaborating with other TIGs, AEA local affiliates, and the AEA leadership and membership at large by hosting networking events together like we did this past year, as well as other presentations, think tanks, etc.
Maldonado: Demographic forecasts estimate that Latina/os will be one-third of the U.S. population by 2050. According to the 2007/2008 scan report, only 5 percent of AEA membership is Latina/o. LA RED is designed as a social support structure that provides professional development and mentoring for students and early-career evaluators who self-identify as Latina/o. LA RED considers developing Latina/o leadership, engagement, and representation in the association a social justice responsibility. In addition, LA RED functions as an evaluation network dedicated to understanding and meeting the needs of heterogeneous Latina/o identities and communities. LA RED invites all evaluators working with Latina/o-serving programs (self-identification as Latina/o is not required) to contribute to the discourse with what Lisa Aponte-Soto refers to as ‘a spirit of solidarity, compassion, and tenacity.’
What type of impact does the LA RED TIG hope to make in terms of influencing culturally responsive evaluation in the evaluation discipline as a whole?
Maldonado: LA RED approaches evaluation from a framework of cultural competence that assumes improving the outcomes of Latina/os is an important contribution to evaluation theory, methods, and practices. LA RED calls for shifting discourse that moves away from evaluations of Latina/o communities to inclusionary evaluation that learns from, with, and for Latina/o communities. For example, scholarship may consider expanding existing perspectives with LatCrit aims and values, such as vast community-building structures and the expansion of anti-subordination struggles. At minimum, when collaborating with and for Latina/o communities, evaluation design and data collection requires prioritizing participatory methods that normalize co-creation of instruments, reviewing data together, and amplifying avenues for sharing findings. As 21st- century evaluators, LA RED membership considers learning from and with meaningful partnerships across all Topical Interest Groups dedicated to influencing culturally responsive evaluation a professional priority.
Aponte-Soto: To contribute to critical race theory and other theory by bringing a LatCrit lens and a Latina/o responsive perspective to the field; to understand challenges and experiences encountered by Latina/o evaluators as well as cross-cultural partners conducting evaluation for and with Latina/o communities; to determine and inform Latina/o responsive evaluation practices (culturally and linguistically) – what has worked, what hasn’t, tools, community engagement in the process, and tools that can be adapted (not adopted) that we can share with each other and the evaluation field to foster LRE and CRE practices; to gauge the state of the field as it pertains to Latina/o responsive evaluation practices conducted for and with Latina/o programs; and, how we may best support Latina/o evaluators in their practice and leadership/professional development; to disseminate what we learn to the broader community not only through the AEA portal, journals, etc. but at other events like CREA, as well as other scholarly journals; to establish a support system or network for Latina/o evaluators to determine gaps and how to bridge these in creating the necessary support mechanism for Latina/o evaluators to position them to excel in leadership roles (this may include professional and leadership development opportunities as well); to establish infrastructure to mentor, coach, and sponsor emerging Latina/o evaluators; to build a cadre of Latina/o evaluators; and to establish cross-cultural partnerships with senior evaluators in AEA leadership and those in evaluation practice to create a community of learners to co-learn and for knowledge sharing.
Most importantly, we want to emphasize that as Latina/os, we are not expert. Latina/os are a diverse heterogeneous ethnic group and as such we lean on community first, each other (the broader cadre of Latina/o consultants), and our cross-cultural partners to support and promote CRE and LRE practices. We firmly believe that this is directly aligned with AEA’s CC statement and the work evolving from CC Working Group that is currently informing the field and all of us. The vision here is to evoke the understanding that cultural responsiveness is an ongoing process of reflection that is vital to all consultancy work, not just in one sector (e.g., racial and ethnic issues), but across all sectors, and that it takes all of us to make this come to fruition!
AEA is proud to welcome LA RED to the Topical Interest Group family. To learn more from the LA RED TIG, check out their sponsored week on AEA365: http://aea365.org/blog/tag/la-red/.
From Stephanie Evergreen, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator
Results from the post-conference survey have been rolling in. I don’t know about your data-nerd style, but I calculated some quick means and then dove straight into the open-ended comments. I love reading through those. This year, we asked what could be done to improve the Potent Presentations Initiative.
Many of you said, “Keep up the good work.” And, “It is so valuable.” And, “Stephanie, will you marry me?” (Just kidding about that last one.)
But many of you also wrote about a very important issue:
“We need a strategy that imparts key points to ALL presenters. Lots of people don't bother to look at [the Potent Presentations Initiative], and it shows in their presentations.”
We are huddling up over here to devise new marketing strategies. Do you know the most effective marketing campaign possible? Word of mouth. That’s you! That’s you telling your friends and colleagues about the Potent Presentations Initiative and what happens when one puts solid content into a well-designed presentation. (Hint: The audience listens, understands, and takes action.)
So this month, tell a friend about p2i.
Point out a specific resource on our Tools page, like the Presentation Preparation Checklist, which is designed to make presenting as stress free as possible.
Spark up a colleague’s well-designed presentation with a few suggestions on interactivity from our Audience Engagement Strategy Book.
Or pass along your favorite tool! It’s free and it’s fun. Help a friend be even better.
Side note! AEA365 is looking for authors interested in contributing a post on logic models for an upcoming theme week on that topic. We're always looking for ideas for other theme weeks, as well. Have an idea? Please write to Sheila B. Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Mike Hendricks, AEA Representative to the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), with contributions from Jim Rugh, EvalPartners Co-Coordinator
As you may already know, a growing number of evaluation associations and other important organizations around the world have declared 2015 as the International Year of Evaluation (EvalYear). But what does this mean for those of us in AEA?
First of all, please note that this is the International Year of Evaluation, not the Year of International Evaluation, and this difference is important. Indeed, there are many things happening around the world, but 2015 is also a year for each of us to promote the awareness, appreciation, demand, practice, and use of evaluation in our own work, no matter where we live or work. On the Evaluation Capacity Development Group website, long-time AEA member Alexey Kuzmin offers an amazing story and some excellent suggestions about making 2015 your EvalYear.
At the same time, it’s certainly true that many exciting things are happening on the global level:
- As Past-President Beverly Parsons told us last month, the United Nations recently adopted, for the first time in its history, a stand-alone resolution supporting the field of evaluation. You can read the full text of the U.N. resolution (Section III on page 4) here. You can also view the actual moment of adoption by the U.N. General Assembly, as well as a video about the U.N. resolution from Deborah Rugg, chair of the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG) and one of the main forces behind the resolution being adopted. Here's another video, by Tessie Catsambas, AEA’s former representative to the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), about the U.N. resolution, EvalYear overall, and the hard work of many persons over the years that has brought us to this historic moment.
- To provide a visual symbol of EvalYear 2015, an evaluation torch has been developed along the lines of an Olympic torch, and it was lit at a U.N. ceremony on December 17. This torch will travel – in spirit if not in reality – to every evaluation gathering during 2015, appearing at these evaluation gatherings around the world.
- Our own AEA conference in Chicago in November will be the last of 2015’s national-level evaluation gatherings, and AEA president Stewart Donaldson and the organizers have exciting plans to highlight the conference theme of Exemplary Evaluations in a Multicultural World: Learning from Evaluation’s Successes Around the Globe.
- In late November, shortly after the AEA conference, a Global Evaluation Forum will be held at the Parliament of Nepal, both to conclude EvalYear 2015 and to launch an exciting new Parliamentarians’ Network for Development Evaluation. Future newsletters will carry more details about this Nepal forum.
- Wisely looking beyond 2015, global evaluation leaders are hosting virtual discussion forums to develop a Global Evaluation Agenda for 2016-‘20. Here is more information about this planning process.
- Last, but definitely not least, Marco Segone, UNEG vice-chair and co-coordinator of EvalPartners, describes many of the diverse activities that will occur during 2015 and places them in a larger context. Marco has been one of the most important and most effective leaders behind many of the accomplishments noted above.
As you can see, this is an exciting year for evaluation, and the world will be filled with exciting events. But let’s not forget the practical, close-to-home advice from Alexey Kuzmin:
“The question is: What can 2015 become for each of us? What will your International Year of Evaluation look like? My suggestion is this: Let us have our own (individual) Year of Evaluation agendas. Let us do what is most natural for us considering our cultural, economic, and political environments. Those could be small things. But small is beautiful! Let us simply talk to people about evaluation – just a few more people and talks than usual. Let us use social networks to share that information with our friends and colleagues. We may want to do some pro-bono evaluation related work, or write articles on evaluation for non-evaluation journals.
“I do believe that the International Year of Evaluation can and should be celebrated by each of us individually. By doing small things, we can make a difference and will contribute to evaluation capacity development worldwide. And it will be fun!”