Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Hello, AEA Members,
How does the trajectory of change from AEA’s origin in 1986 to its 35th anniversary relate to Meeting the Moment?
Over the past 35 years, AEA’s leaders and members have given us a set of core values and instituted relevant ENDs Goals that guide us in our professional work as evaluators. Our leaders, both practitioners and academics, have given us multiple tools: effective approaches to conducting evaluations, methodologically sound evidenced-based practices, Program Evaluation Standards, and practical wisdom as we employ evaluation to better humankind and our planet.
What is the “now” moment (i.e., the moment we are to meet)? Our moment consists of a myriad of challenges that confront AEA members in their practice of evaluation. These challenges have brought attention to and awareness of multiple issues, including a digital revolution and big data, technological innovations, connectivity during a pandemic, globalization networks, equality, equity and inclusion, indigenous sovereignty, sustainability, climate change, community coalitions and collaborations, and needs of young and emerging evaluators — just to recognize a few.
AEA at 35: Meeting the Moment leads us toward the necessary, healthy transformation of AEA and transformation of the practice of evaluation. Our success in this effort requires truth and healing. It means engaging our hearts, being the change we need, and clarifying what we want to see happen. It means balancing control with letting go. It means having a focus on what is happening right now, and it requires addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The good news is that today’s evaluators are up to the challenges. We are tuned in to today’s realities. We realize that the practice of evaluation requires being knowledgeable about the programs, policies, and projects we evaluate, being aware of and sensitive to context, being skilled in evidence-based and systematic inquiry, and engaging on a global and local level.
AEA is fortunate to have nearly 8,000 members, representing over 60 countries. Our members are cross-disciplinary, as evidenced by our 60 Topical Interest Groups (TIGs), and they are in the midst of transforming the practice of evaluation. Their “love to see” (International Development Research Centre) progress marker is to better humankind and our planet. We are employing strategies for conducting evaluations in a new landscape that is moving over time from where it was, to where it is, and to where it is going.
We are change agents at a critical time, which requires us to be reflective and to recognize our values and biases as we move forward. We are learning from our failures and successes of the past, even as we are transforming evaluation practice to meet the moment. We are called upon to move quickly: “There is no time to waste” (Claremont Evaluation Center mantra) and “Time Being of Essence” (Blue Marble Evaluation principle). Right now is the time for us to work together, sharing our personal and professional skills and expertise as we prepare to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
To celebrate 35 years as an association, AEA is highlighting members that have made an impact within the association and industry. This month, AEA spoke with Robin Lin Miller, Ph.D. Read about Miller’s background, extensive involvement with AEA, and where she sees the association heading in the future.
Could you tell readers a bit about yourself? How did you get started in the field and what motivated you to get to where you are today?
I am currently a Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University, where I direct doctoral training in Ecological-Community Psychology and, with my colleague Adrienne Adams, co-direct our interdisciplinary online master’s degree and certificate in program evaluation.
Evaluation is a core competence for community psychologists, so my initial exposure to it came through my training at New York University where I earned my doctorate. The training emphasis at NYU was heavily quasi-experimental, yet community collaborative and grounded in values of empowerment and social justice. Classic community psychology of the era. From my first-year practicum with David Chavis through to my dissertation, program evaluations were my primary focus.
In many ways, though, my real training as an evaluator came through the years as I spent as an internal evaluator at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) starting in 1987. GMHC was founded in 1982 by six gay men in the late activist Larry Kramer’s living room. It is believed to be the first HIV-focused civil society and advocacy organization in the world. No textbook I read at NYU could have prepared me for what it meant to evaluate the homegrown innovations activists at GMHC were creating. It was through one of those innovations – a program to help male sex workers persuade their johns to practice safer sex – that I met former AEA President Ross Connor. He convinced me that I needed to come to AEA to help him advocate that evaluators engage with the HIV epidemic. My first meeting was the Seattle meeting, at which Lee Sechrest delivered his presidential address rebutting Yvonna Lincoln’s presidential address of the prior year. Every session I went to was electrifying. That meeting set me on the path I have followed ever since — to weave a justice-oriented and community-centered style of evaluation with gay and bisexual men’s sexual health concerns and HIV prevention and care.
In what ways has AEA been influential or beneficial to you during your career?
AEA has and continues to shape my understanding of how to do what I do better and more mindfully. It has expanded the toolkit of methods that I can apply; exposed me to a wealth of approaches and ways of thinking about the art, craft, and societal role of evaluation; expanded my skills in areas in which I had no formal training at the doctoral level; and, offered me a professional learning community and enduring friendships. I have been incredibly fortunate to play many roles in AEA over the years, each of which has permitted me to understand the field in new ways.
Some of my earliest volunteer experiences were in leadership roles running AEA’s conference, which at the time was a volunteer operation in every single aspect. I led local arrangements the year of the Phoenix debacle in 1998 when our management company collapsed and we nearly went under with it, was associate chair the year that followed, and then acted in the role of conference chair for four years, starting with the Hawaii conference in 2000.
I developed a deep sense of the profession’s scope and richness through the many things I had to do in that role, notably read every session proposal and map it to a room and time slot, as well as create the multi-paper panel and poster sessions. The conference grew substantially in size over those years, so I also learned firsthand what it meant to ensure that we are and remain an association that exists for the benefit of our members. My roles in the journals, especially my time as Editor-in-Chief of American Journal of Evaluation, drove home the incredible wealth of experience, wisdom, skill, and insight our members possess.
How has AEA evolved over the years? Where do you see the association heading in the future?
It has changed quite dramatically since I first joined. We had a homegrown feel then because it was a volunteer operation top to bottom. The small size of the association provided for a much more integrative discussion across areas of theory and practice than is possible today. We were demographically different. The balance of academics to practitioners was different. The nature and scope of practice was different. We were not a part of a broad international community of voluntary professional associations and a global movement, as we are today, because few other organizations like ours yet existed. There was no IOCE, EvalGender, EvalYouth, or EvalIndigenous. I cannot forecast where we will go, only articulate some of my hopes. I want AEA to realize itself as a socially just and sustainably minded professional organization. We have a lot to do to ensure our profession and the societies in which we live achieve equity in the natural world.
What advice would you give to someone just getting started in the industry?
I think it is a given that networking and engagement matters in any profession and at all stages of one’s career. The relationships I established in my very first AEA professional development session set the stage for many of the opportunities that later accrued to me, as did my stepping up in the first TIG I joined. The other thing I would advise is to connect with and learn from the discussions going on in other VOPEs and from their approaches to practice. My ways of thinking have been challenged in the best possible way by exposing myself to the theory and practice pioneered by colleagues in SAMEA, AfrEA, ANZEA, and other associations. Many of the most important lessons I have learned over the past decade and insights I have gained regarding my biases and blind spots have come from my international peers. We are a United States-based association, but evaluation is not a U.S.-based enterprise.
This year, AEA celebrates 35 years as an association! Last month, we asked you to test your knowledge of AEA. Find out how you did below:
1. True or False: AEA was almost named "Evaluation Association"
2. True or False: The American Evaluation Association’s mission is to improve evaluation practices and methods, increase evaluation use, promote evaluation as a profession, and support the contribution of evaluation to the generation of theory and knowledge about effective human action.
3. Who was the first AEA President?
Ready for more? Test your knowledge this month with quiz #3! Then, check the next issue to see if your answers were correct!
From Nick Hart, AEA Evaluation Policy Task Force Chair
Two months into the Biden-Harris Administration, the priorities and direction for federal Executive Branch agencies are increasingly clear. Across the various priorities, the focus on using data and evidence to inform decision-making is cross-cutting and emerging as a favored strategy for enabling effective implementation of the Administration’s goals.
In late January, President Joe Biden issued a memorandum to the heads of Executive Branch agencies, outlining a policy statement about the role of science and evidence in decision-making: “It is the policy of my administration to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data.”
This strong and early statement from a president helps set the tenor and the framework for decision-making in coming years. Substantively, the presidential memorandum delineates certain expectations for scientific integrity processes, scientific officials, and advisory committees. The memo also recognizes the role that federal evaluation officers, learning agendas, and evaluation plans have in supporting the president’s policy statement (see Section 5) – reinforcing responsibilities established by the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act). In short, the memo helps elevate the stature of evaluation activities in government, while aligning administration priorities and commitments.
In response to the president’s memo, the American Evaluation Association issued a public statement applauding the direction and intent of the president’s statement, emphasizing the importance of the use of evaluation in government policymaking and the expertise of the AEA membership. As the federal government continues to implement the requirements of this new memorandum as well as the provisions of the Evidence Act, the AEA community can support the efforts of government by continuing to promote the concepts and activities highlighted in AEA’s An Evaluation Roadmap for a More Effective Government. Specific activities for AEA members include engaging with agency staff in developing learning agendas and helping to answer agency priority questions, calling for and promoting transparency in evaluation plans and reports, sharing expertise with the growing evaluation community of practice within the federal government, and even offering consultative services to federal agencies.
Through the continued efforts to support implementation of the Evidence Act and related guidance for government, AEA members have the opportunity to highlight and distinguish the unique role and added value that evaluation offers for decision-makers.
View AEA's full statement here.
Written by Dr. Vidhya Shanker, Co-Chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Working Group on behalf of the Board of Directors with contributions from board members Wanda Casillas, Guili Zhang, Xiaoxia Newton, Libby Smith and Veronica Olazabal.
We write to express our sadness at the death of eight human beings, six of whom were Asian American women, in the Atlanta, Georgia metropolitan area on March 16. We pronounce their names:
We also write to extend our condolences to the victims’ families and communities and to all those who feel kinship with them.
The loss of any life necessarily incites sadness and compassion, both for those whose lives were lost and for their family and community members who remain. The murder of multiple people in multiple locations from a single racial, gender, and occupational category and in this case arising from a single perpetrator and a single incident, additionally incites anger, fear, and confusion—perhaps especially among social scientists—about why.
One of the American Evaluation Association’s Guiding Principles is to contribute to the common good and advancement of an equitable and just society, and incidents such as this tragedy call us to live those principles with greater fortitude. We hope it further incites individual and field-wide action to strengthen our ongoing efforts to educate ourselves about the larger context underlying the murder—including evaluation’s role within that context—and to subsequently approach our work in ways that may decrease or prevent the future unnecessary and unjust loss of life.
AEA board and staff aim for this message to remind us all that we can and should contribute to those efforts and to help us do so. Visit the AEA website to view our full statement, which shares education and actions for moving forward.
Have you heard? Proposal submissions are now open for Eval21 Reimagined: A Virtual Experience! This is your chance to submit your work to present to thousands of evaluation professionals this fall. The deadline to submit is May 10, 2021.
AEA is planning to offer 120 sessions at Eval21 Reimagined. We are looking for a dynamic variety of virtual presentations to meet the diverse needs of the AEA members. We will accept the following session types:
Those who submit session proposals should feel comfortable and have experience presenting virtually.
Learn more about the Eval21 Reimagined theme, specificities on we're looking for, and how to submit your proposal.
For more information, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page on the AEA website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AEA members can receive a 20% discount off of select Oxford University Press social work and research method titles when they order through the website www.oup.com/academic using the discount code AEA20. We do have a number of new titles that your members may be interested in that I’ve outlined below—please feel free to share this information however you see fit whether on the website or in the newsletter or using social media. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Clinical Assessment for Social Workers - Clinical Assessment for Social Workers provides a wide range of standardized assessment tools, derived from different perspectives, to give readers greater flexibility in information gathering and intervention planning. Incorporating both quantitative and qualitative methods, the authors encourage readers to approach assessment as both an art and a science. They advocate for discovering the balance between scientific, evidence-based approaches and the development of personal practice wisdom.
Practical Implementation in Social Work Practice - Practical Implementation in Social Work Practice is a helpful guide that showcases the benefits of Evidence-Based Practice (EBP), with an emphasis on the implementation of high-quality interventions. The book expands on the EBP process from the applied and practical lenses, beginning with an overview of the process of EBP and the relationship between EBP and implementation. Within the chapters, readers will find specialized insight, practical industry tips, and adaptable implementation frameworks and tools to use on their own.
If you are a publisher and would like to participate as an AEA publishing partner, or if you are an author of an evaluation-related text from an alternate publisher that you would like to see participate, please contact the AEA office at email@example.com.
AEA members can receive a 20% discount off Routledge when they order through the website using the discount code AEA20. Of particular interest to AEA members may be the books in the Comparative Policy Evaluation series (Ray C. Rist, Ed.), most recent title: Changing Bureaucracies: Adapting to Uncertainty, and How Evaluation Can Help – Burt Perrin and Tony Tyrrell Eds.).
From Joaquina Scott Kankam, Ph.D., Director of School of Solutions
Recently, the United States' political climate has highlighted the racial and economic injustices and disparities that exist in the wealthiest country in the world. More Americans are now aware of black men's unjustifiable deaths by law enforcement officers, the inequity of medical services and interventions provided to minority communities, and the racially motivated hate crimes against people of Asian descent. Although opinions may vary when addressing race matters in this country, many people will agree that income disparities affect most people, not just minorities.
U.S. Congress members are currently debating an increase in the federal minimum wage, last raised in 2009 from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour. While most agree a wage increase is necessary to improve many workers’ quality of life, this increase presents challenges that may again impact minorities and less-affluent individuals the most. Increasing the federal minimum wage will most likely prompt companies and corporations to replace entry-level positions with automation, reducing the number of jobs available for individuals with high school diplomas or less. Similar to the aftermath of the 2007 recession, where there were significant declines in construction and office administrative support positions as noted by Carnevale, Jayasundera, and Gulish (2016), many predict a mass reduction in the number of minimum wage positions available for people without postsecondary credentials.
College Access Programming's design helps K-12 students from less-affluent backgrounds with earning credentialing from higher education institutions. College Access Programming involves providing additional academic preparation, educational enrichment, and college readiness activities to offer students access to postsecondary networks and services before graduating from high school. This supplementary exposure gives youth who may not consider enrolling in educational programming after high school an option to pursue furthering their studies.
This past year has brought substantial challenges to education providers globally because of the Coronavirus pandemic, and College Access Programs were no exception. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (2020) reported a 21.7% decline in the overall enrollment in postsecondary institutions and a whopping 32.6% decline in student enrollment from high-poverty high schools. Barriers to receiving services provided by College Access Programs include limited access to technological resources for distance learning and the loss of normalcy, impacting many students' health and safety. Not only is the current focus centered on the affordability of attending colleges and universities, but it now includes the mental health and wellness of students due to the increasing suicide rates among youth and teens during this pandemic. The isolation and fear of the unknown, fueled by current events, affecting students' ability to learn in ways that researchers are still exploring. This dilemma makes the work of what we do in professional evaluation communities more crucial than ever before.
In my roles as the Director of School of Solutions and Chair of the College Access Programs TIG, I work daily to establish standards of practice in the structures within College Access Programming. Providing “high-quality, ethically defensible, and culturally responsive evaluation practices” promoted by the American Evaluation Association remain at the forefront of everything I do when working to measure the quality of the components within college access programming. Generating viable solutions to assist individuals with earning postsecondary credentials is a product of ensuring accountability measures are present in evaluative tools. Applying AEA’s values to my daily practices helps me ensure college access programs are setting and adhering to standards aimed to increase the human capital of students who need these services the most.
As we move forward towards a post-COVID world, I hope to experience an increase in dialogue about this pandemic's effects and how these effects have forever altered what we once considered “normal” as evaluation professionals. We cannot singularly focus on processes and outcomes when determining the effectiveness and efficiency of educational programs. We must now consider variables, such as the needs and disparities, in addition to the social and emotional well-being of marginalized subpopulations, when creating evaluation plans. To truly “walk the talk” in college access programming, we must now consider the role evaluation plays to provide inclusive and comprehensive data of what affects disadvantaged youth the most.
Are you new to the field of evaluation or association? Do you have questions, curiosities, or concerns about AEA? Are you searching for career opportunities or need friendly advice on TIGs, the annual conference, or how to take advantage of the plethora of other member benefits? We want to help! Fill out this form and submit your questions for the chance to be featured in AEA's monthly newsletter! Make sure to stay up-to-date on the latest issues to receive answers to your questions from professionals in the field.
The Digital Knowledge Hub is an online platform featuring professional development opportunities for evaluators, by evaluators. See eStudies available for purchase like the ones below.
In-depth eStudy courses offer a deep dive into top-of-mind evaluation themes and topics. Open to both members and nonmembers alike, eStudies provide a diverse learning experience where collaboration is encouraged.
Presenters: Jane Reisman, Founder and former leader of ORS Impact, and Veronica Olazabal, Senior Adviser and Director of Measurement, Evaluation and Organizational Performance at The Rockefeller Foundation
Date: April 7, 2021 1:00-2:30 (EST)
During this course, we will address these questions while exploring both the demand and supply side of generating evidence, validating results, and promoting use of data in decision making in this new area. We will also learn practical M&E skills that can be applied and/or tailored to meet the needs of these newer stakeholders. Finally, we will ground-truth concepts and theories through discussions with experts and practitioners, highlighting the challenges and opportunities in measurement and evaluation for sustainable and responsible investment.
Presenters: Dr. Sharon Attipoe-Dorcoo, Katie Boone, MA and Dr. Rita S. Fierro
Dates: April 16, 30, 12:00 p.m. (EST); May 14, 24, 12:00 p.m. (EST)
Have you ever been scared to invite certain stakeholders to an evaluation meeting because of tension management in a charged context? Have you seen a stakeholder bored while you tried to explain logic models? Participatory Leadership (PL) practices, from the Art of Hosting tradition, provide tools to help evaluators design inclusive evaluations without teaching evaluation concepts. You can involve as many as, or more than, 250 people in your design with relatively little time, allowing for community inclusion. The creative tension can be used to identify creative solutions that leverage the group’s collective power.
Attendees will experience and learn how to create a meeting environment that facilitates meaningful and deep conversations where all participants contribute and the environment isn't dominated by a handful of participants even in the presence of dissent.
Presenter: Jennifer Jewiss, EdD
Dates: May 18, 20, 25, 27, 12:00 p.m. (EST)
Evaluators who use interviews, open-ended survey questions, and other avenues for gathering qualitative data often generate lots of rich, messy, textual material. Once the qualitative dataset is assembled, the next phase of the adventure begins as we strive to make sense of the data and produce the most meaningful findings. This eStudy introduces participants to coding and thematic analysis, two foundational strategies for working with qualitative data. This eStudy will feature hands-on, skill-building opportunities and present a set of guiding questions that evaluators can use to focus analyses and consider essential ethical issues such as positionality and cultural competence.
Looking for a crash course in evaluation? Purchase the Introduction to Eval 101 on-demand course!
Created with the assistance of Tom Chapel, Chief Evaluation Officer for the CDC, Eval 101 provides an overview of the evaluation framework. This hands-on, self-paced eLearning course uses case studies and simulations to teach the step-by-step framework for program evaluation. The tools and insights learned from Eval 101 will empower you to use evaluative thinking effectively and make an immediate and practical impact on your evaluation practice.
As an AEA member, you have free access to our library of Coffee Breaks. These short, 20 minute webinars are great for sharing lessons with your students or other colleagues, while you are apart.
Here are a few Coffee Breaks you might be interested in:
In this section, we spotlight events of interest to the AEA community, suggested by fellow members. Please note these events are not sponsored by AEA. If you would like to suggest an upcoming event, email Cady Stokes, AEA newsletter editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in boosting your capacity to do research on evaluation, join the RoE TIG for this one-time peer learning circle event! We will leverage breakout rooms to explore a variety of topics, including generating ideas for RoE studies, connecting with other researchers, doing RoE outside of academia, and more. All are welcome to join!
When: Wed, April 28 at 3pm ET
The Eval4Action North American Regional Consultation will be held on April 20th, 2021 from 12 - 1:30 pm (EST) via Zoom. Eval4Action is a global campaign that calls upon all actors, everywhere to accelerate the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals, by advocating for stronger evaluation capacities and evidence-based policies. This consultation is an opportunity for evaluation practitioners, users, and other stakeholders to shape regional priorities and promote influential evaluation, particularly to help address the SDGs. The consultation will include brief remarks by invited speakers, followed by facilitated group discussions, and a closing session.
Attending the consultation is free of cost and open to everyone. To register for the event as an attendee, please visit this link.
AEA would like to recognize and thank some of its most longstanding members. Click here to view individuals who are celebrating 5+, 10+, 20+ and 30+ years with the association this month!
AEA would like to welcome those who have recently joined the association. Click here to view a list of AEA's newest members.