Friday, February 25, 2022
The past two years have been challenging for everyone. As an organization, the American Evaluation Association has navigated through a maze of uncertainty, while trying to balance value and expectations with available resources. Through it all, we have remained focused and strong, and produced two successful virtual conferences. We demonstrated our ability to pivot and adapt to change, and now we are looking forward to being together in person for both our Summer Institute (June 6-8 in Atlanta) and Annual Conference (November 7-12 in New Orleans).
AEA serves as a professional home to over 6,000 members. To best serve you, we are focused on reviewing the composition of our membership (beyond traditional evaluation roles) so that our programs and services are designed to meet your evolving professional needs. The AEA Board of Directors continues to reflect on our Ends Goals to ensure that they reflect the growing needs of our diverse membership. The board has a renewed focus on “clarifying our audience,” by examining for whom AEA was designed to serve, compared to who we currently are and should be serving. With the help of our Graduate Evaluation Diversity Interns (GEDI), we will use the findings of their work to inform our strategic direction in areas such as professional development content, event content and our position in the international evaluation community.
Member engagement is another priority, as we strive to find new ways to invite member participation to create meaningful content. We look forward to offering sessions that highlight the work of our Topical Interest Groups and Local Affiliates and maintaining a strong community. Throughout this year, you can look forward to educational sessions and updates from key working groups, such as Guiding Principles and Competencies, who are both focused on integrating these works into our educational content. Also, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group is off to a great start to advise on our approach to integrating a DEI lens into all of our work at both the operational and governance levels.
Evolution is necessary for growth, and your participation is paramount to our success. We hope that you take advantage of our opportunities for engagement, such as Town Halls, the Annual Business Meeting, TIG Meetings, surveys, polls, focus groups and other activities that we have planned for the year. We have a renewed commitment to transparency with our members, but we need your cooperation to make it work. Our leadership and staff teams are working collaboratively to ensure success with confidence and the belief that our evolution will bring a brighter future ahead.
The pandemic has reminded us as an organization to do what we do best….“Keep Calm and Evaluate”!
Name (as you want it listed): Abdulsamad Humaidan
Affiliation: Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Degrees: Ph.D. Candidate in Language, Literacies, and Culture
Years in the Evaluation Field: New
Joined AEA: 2021
Why do you belong to AEA?
I joined the AEA to learn more about evaluations and to network with fellow colleagues.
Why do you choose to work in the field of evaluation?
I started reviewing educational grant applications in 2020, and I was invited with two other members to meet and discuss our ratings and the feedback that we assigned to each application. The meetings were informative, and each member was sharing the rationale behind the feedback. One of the things that caught my attention in the applications was the evaluation section, and I was interested in learning more about that. I tried to search for courses offered here on campus, and I was informed that there was not any course to be offered soon. Therefore, I decided I will need to start investing time educating myself about evaluations and the best way to do that was to join the American Evaluation Association (AEA).
What's the most memorable or meaningful evaluation that you have been a part of?
I participated in a cultural exchange program that builds mutual understanding between the United States of America and other nations. I was one of the program staffs, and I enjoyed being with youths as I myself was a recipient of the Fulbright Foreign Student Scholarship funded by the U.S. Department of States. My experience as a program staff helped me understand more about programing and management. One of the management skills that I was exposed to was understanding the value and the impact of staff evaluations. I found myself in need to learn the types of evaluations and how to invest the evaluation feedback to enhance personal and professional growth taking into account the validity of the tool constructs.
What advice would you give to those new to the field?
The most valuable advice that I would like to share with any one new to the field is to be open to challenge their assumptions about evaluations.
Anything additional you would like to share with the AEA community?
I am glad I joined the AEA community and to know more about the field, as well as the members. I am also planning to be more involved in serving our AEA community in different capacities. Thank you!
A Time for Recognition, Reflection, and Action
This coming New Year’s Day ends the 35th year of AEA and starts a regeneration in evaluation. It is a special time to reminisce, to look back and salute our organization for embracing the multiple challenges we faced in 2021 and for seizing opportunities to address issues of social justice. But first let’s take time to express our appreciation to those who have provided leadership and support and encouragement to AEA throughout the year.
We recognize and thank our diverse Board of Directors, all of whom are volunteers who have devoted a great deal time and energy to their work as Board members. They have provided valuable insights into the myriad of complex issues we faced this year, including how best to serve all AEA’s members as we visualize a more brilliant future.
We recognize and thank Anisha Lewis, Executive Director, and her staff. They provided AEA with essential operational, communications, educational, learning and event, information and technology services. Their work is the programmatic foundation for implementing AEA policies, which focus on AEA’s mission and goals.
We recognize and thank AEA’s 2021 Presidential Program Planning Committee: Wanda Casillias, Committee Chair; Damon King, Operations Associate; Rhonda Williams, Hanife Cakici, and Alexey Kuzmin. This team created and developed AEA’s 2021 theme, AEA at 35: Meeting the Moment. They understood that we learn from the past, we live in the moment, and we plan for the future. Their efforts led to opportunities for AEA to address the realities of today’s uncertain times with pertinent presidential strand sessions in our EVAL21 virtual conference. And in that vein, we thank also all the proposal reviewers who participated in choosing conference presentations.
Finally, we recognize and thank all AEA members, who, together comprise our 60 TIGs, 34 Local Affiliates and International members representing over 60 countries. Our members give breath and vitality to AEA. They provide different perspectives, valuable insights into various cross disciplinary challenges, and potential solutions for problematic issues, all of which serve to improve our professional practice of evaluation.
Let’s talk now about AEA’s history. All of us, including AEA, carry our histories with us. Our histories sharply influence what we think, how we feel, and how we respond to the world around us. The issues we face as evaluators today, in the moment, have roots in the past. AEA’s early history tells us that academics and practitioners defined and shaped the practice of evaluation. These pioneers in evaluation professionalized the field, gave us a foundation and purpose, and taught us the importance of asking the right questions. At the same time, evaluation practitioners were trained to gain the knowledge, skills, methodologies, and tools to conduct reliable evaluations while keeping a keen eye on the purpose of evaluation: bettering society.
AEA’s persistent reach toward bettering society, i.e., bettering humankind and our planet, is evident in past presidential themes that addressed equity, diversity, decolonization, and climate change. As examples: Exemplary Evaluations in a Multicultural World; Learning from Evaluation's Successes Around the Globe; Evaluation and Social Justice; New Perspectives from International and Cross-Cultural Evaluation; and Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future.
We may ask ourselves: Has our history (our experiences and our training) prepared us to firmly commit to social justice and equitable outcomes? Are we equipped to advocate for interventions that battle the negative impact on the many various “isms”, or that begin to dismantle colonial structures, or that will work to stem the profit-driven destruction of our planet?
Reflecting on our history shows us that some of the most important things, things that we should have learned but did not, now seem apparent. In effect, reflection on the past has opened a door, making the invisible visible. This open door has allowed us to see the moment more clearly and to understand the urgency to transform the practice of evaluation.
As a result, many of today’s AEA leaders and practitioners are now recognizing social structures that promote and maintain inequities and the harm they have caused, not only in the past 35 years but for centuries. We see the critical need to address injustice. Added to all of that, we also now begin to comprehend the impact of the COVID19 pandemic, with fear, distrust, lockdowns, and social isolation, and great personal loss among the difficulties many of us face.
We might view the circumstances of our moment a call to action.
Certainly, we will continue to be challenged as we work to create innovations that will reshape the practice of evaluation so that it more effectively addresses ingrained and long-standing disparities along with the inevitable newly emergent issues. Transformational change in evaluation will require a mindset that is framed by inquiry, not by certitude; by embracing paradoxes; by hearing and accepting multiple perspectives; by reflecting and learning; by observing and analyzing; by articulating with passion and commitment; and by asking the right questions.
The good news is we are amid the processes of change. There is excitement, energy, and optimism, especially on the part of young and emerging evaluators and their mentors, to meet head on the multitude of issues we are facing in the moment. Restating a call to action from the October newsletter, let’s take advantage of this opportunity to embrace the moment and to enhance the future. Let’s do our best to be courageous, to seize this moment to reflect, to be open and honest with ourselves and others, to interconnect, to be vulnerable, and above all, to be ethical in the way we conduct evaluations.
We will all be well-served if we are able to: maintain our commitment to bettering evaluation practice and society; honor and learn from the past but focus on the future; recognize respectful dissent and still emerge as one voice.
Hopefully, awareness of our history and making the invisible visible will push us to transform ourselves and our profession, to hear all voices, to advocate for right, to give respect, to care, to influence for good, and to empower all people.
Wishing you a happy holiday season – one that provides an opportunity for each of us to stop and appreciate the good of the past year and to envision all the hope the New Year may bring.
This month, the American Evaluation Association (AEA) sent a letter to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality applauding the November 15, 2021 joint memorandum recognizing the role of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) in federal policymaking and decision-making. Below is an excerpt from that letter.
AEA is a professional association of evaluators. AEA’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. Evaluation involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of programs, policies, personnel, addressing data governance, and ethics in evaluation, and products and organizations to improve their effectiveness. As we suggest in AEA’s Evaluation Roadmap for a More Effective Government, evaluation can address contextual appropriateness, a critical consideration for Tribal Nations. AEA’s Evaluation Roadmap and Cultural Competency documents outline the critical need for inclusion and strengthening of cultural competence, capacities, and practices of evaluation to inform theory, policy, professional development, and decision making. In an intentional effort towards meeting these calls for action, AEA is committed to the visibility, representation, and inclusion of sovereign Tribal/First Nations and Indigenous peoples throughout organizational policies and practices.
AEA offers three suggestions as the activities stimulated by the November 15, 2021, memorandum move forward. First, we strongly encourage that the Interagency Working Group on Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge include evaluation, Indigenous evaluation, data sovereignty, and nation-to-nation evaluation policy and systems work in the scope of its deliberations. Second, the Working Group should include individuals with experience and expertise in evaluation and with Tribal/First Nations Governments and peoples. Third, AEA encourages the White House to extend the framework of the November 15, 2021, memorandum to explicitly recognize the value and appropriateness of nation-to-nation collaboration and provide opportunities and resources towards nation building efforts so non-Tribal government agencies can strengthen their capacities to effectively and responsibly contribute to operationalizing TEK throughout Federal government policies and activities in an effective, responsive, and sustainable way.
The new guidance from the White House to federal agencies also presents new opportunities for the evaluation community to support implementation of these efforts. AEA’s Evaluation Policy Task Force will continue to monitor progress toward adoption of AEA’s suggestions in the months and years ahead.
Use code Members22 to save 20% on your AEA membership by February 28 before member prices increase on March 1. This is your last opportunity to receive our lowest membership prices of the year. AEA members can renew their membership at any point throughout the year, so this deal can be applied to all members. View details of this promotion below, and contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Connect with AEA’s new President, Veronica Olazabal during our upcoming Town Hall. President Olazabal will provide an overview of the Board of Directors’ focus for this year, and her theme for the 2022 Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA.
We are proud to announce the interim appointments of Laura Peck and Jori Hall as Co-Editors-in-Chief of the American Journal of Evaluation. Both Jori and Laura have a long history of working with the AJE, with Jori serving as an Associate Editor and Laura as the Section Editor for Experimental Methodology. The interim appointments are for three months, until a permanent Editor-in-Chief is selected. We are thankful for their service!
The Guiding Principles reflect the core values of the AEA and are intended as a guide to the professional ethical conduct of evaluators. The five Principles address systematic inquiry, competence, integrity, respect for people and common good and equity. The Principles are interdependent and interconnected. At times, they might even conflict with one another. Therefore, evaluators should carefully examine how they justify professional actions.
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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.
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.).
AEA members can receive a 20% discount off SAGE when they use the discount code SAGE20. Check out their books here.
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Sign up for upcoming sessions in our Digital Knowledge Hub! Explore the upcoming sessions below. Spots are limited, so register now for one of the following spots:
What's new this month in the AEA Online Career Center? The following positions have been added recently:
Learning and Evaluation Specialist (Los Angeles, CA)
Program Coordinator (Chattanooga, TN)
Community Health Resources Data Coordinator (Georgetown, SC)
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.