Friday, October 31, 2014
Message from the President - Evaluation 2014: One Step Closer to Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future
I’d like to start by extending a big thank you to all of the presenters and attendees of Evaluation 2014! I received many positive and enthusiastic comments from attendees.
Keep an eye on the e-library to download select materials from the conference. Be sure to log in to the library, so you have access to the members-only content. Click on the “Most Recent” tab to see a list of presenters’ materials. A big thank you to everyone who presented in the over 700 concurrent sessions and for taking time to post your materials in the e-library.
There were so many special moments and so many people I need to thank for putting together this exceptional conference.
I was very happy to see all the Twitter activity from our attendees. Thanks for sharing your experience with others at the conference and with those unable to attend. Check out #eval14 to see all of our conference tweets.
I want to extend a special thanks to Kataraina Pipi for the conference theme song. I met Kataraina several years ago when she attended a preconference workshop I was doing with colleagues on systems thinking. She and her friend and colleague Nan Wehipeihana created a song for our ZIPPER mnemonic (scroll down to view the mnemonic and hear the song) about systems thinking, and I am thrilled that she applied her talent to the Evaluation 2014 theme.
Another special treat was the AEA poem by Susan Robbins. Thank you, Susan, for sharing this special way of communicating. The work of Kataraina and Susan adds yet another dimension to our communications that goes beyond written reports and data visualization and taps into the emotions that support the use of data.
Thanks to the many AEA members and friends who submitted six-word stories. Over the past few months, we put out the challenge to write a six-word story about what visionary evaluation meant to you. These stories were compiled for the conference. We were delighted to see such a great response. Kataraina drew on these stories to help her write the conference theme song.
You can find more information about many of these items on our post-conference webpage.
For me, a highlight of Evaluation 2014 was the enthusiasm for the conference theme – evaluators supporting a sustainable, equitable future through visionary evaluation. During the opening plenary, I discussed several ideas around this theme using the visuals developed by Matt Keene, our conference chair, and his artistic friend Chris Metzner. (Thanks, Matt and Chris! You’re amazing.) These ideas were powerfully reinforced by an interview with our 14-year-old guest, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, from Boulder.
In the plenary sessions on Thursday and Friday, we continued the emphasis on the theme with special attention to how evaluators can relate to business and social enterprises to support a sustainable, equitable future. On Thursday, Bob Willard skillfully brought to our attention the critical role of business during his session “A Vision of Corporations Fit for the Future: Implications for Evaluation.” On Friday, a panel of evaluators and leaders in the world of social venture, social enterprises, corporations, and social investment funds engaged in a dynamic conversation. These slides will soon be available on our website.
In the closing plenary, we had engaging conversations during roundtable discussions, followed by a panel that included several AEA presidents (past and future) and Riitta Oskanen, vice president of the European Evaluation Society. The perspectives expressed indicated that there is a lot of momentum for AEA to move forward on determining how it can be an active player in supporting a sustainable, equitable future for all generations to come.
Individual members, small groups, and the Topical Interest Groups (TIGs) will help determine the nature and speed at which we can be significant contributors to a sustainable and just future. The AEA board and staff will also be looking at their role in supporting this direction. More to come on this topic.
Finally, a special thanks to the AEA staff, led by our executive director, Denise Roosendaal, for all of their hard work. Evaluation 2014 was their first year being responsible for the full cycle of the conference. They implemented some new features this year, including the mobile app, the slimmer paper program, and a shorter final day – all based on feedback from conference attendees in previous years. AEA staff are already making note of improvements to make for next year’s conference. Please feel free to send them your feedback and ideas, as well.
If you are interested in the presidential strand session and the plenary sessions, the AEA staff will be making recordings available. Stay tuned for more information.
And, finally, I want to give a very warm thank you to our fabulous conference program chair, Matt Keene, and conference program co-chair, Lovely Dhillon. Their role was to help share the plenary sessions and the presidential strand sessions. Matt and Lovely have been phenomenal. Among other features, Matt brought great creativity and Lovely brought her extraordinary networking skills to the conference.
Let’s build on this momentum to see how we can create a sustainable, equitable future for all!
AEA 2014 President
Face of AEA - Meet Kwabena Ansong Denkyi
Why do you choose to work in the field of evaluation?
The success of project/program interventions in Africa to meet their objectives is my greatest desire. From my research from developed countries, evaluation has played a key role in putting projects/programs on track.
Poor African countries that seek loans or grants from multi- and bilateral organizations and countries deserve to get value for the money they invest in their economy. Evaluation plays a key role in assessing these projects at all levels (activity, output, and outcome).
What advice would you give to those new to the field?
Evaluators have a key role in contributing to national development. Those new in the field should take this career seriously so their countries can attain development.
Diversity - Postcards from Evaluation 2014: The AEA Cultural Competence Working Group Asks: What is a Culturally Competent Evaluator?
Tucked away in a corner at Evaluation 2014 in Denver, Colorado, AEA’s very own Cultural Competence Working Group set up the sequel to their storied photo booth media project. In a project aimed at addressing how evaluators increase their capacity to conduct culturally responsive evaluation, the group set out to ask the over 3,000 evaluation professionals in attendance: What is a culturally competent evaluator? and What is culturally competent evaluation?
Led by Derrick Gervin of the Cultural Competence Working Group, attendees responded to this simple statement: Cultural competence in evaluation is … . The answers varied, taking shape from both the personal experience of the respondents and their future goals for being culturally competent. The responses included:
“… willing to be a blank canvas”
“… attends to issues of access”
“… hiring evaluators of color”
Each answer challenges evaluators to examine their responsibility in practice and theory. “The project was started by the AEA Cultural Competence policy subgroup, under the direction of Kari Greene. With the wide range of sessions addressing cultural competence, the idea was to increase the use and application of the AEA Statement of Cultural Competence,” says Derrick Gervin of the CDC. “Our overall goal was to maintain the statement at the forefront of the minds of our colleagues and to encourage them to think about how the statement impacts their work. The results were some pretty creative photo interpretations and takes on what a culturally competent evaluator is and what cultural competence is overall.”
What is a culturally competent evaluator to you? Someone who serves the community for which they practice? Someone who is sensitive to the needs of diverse populations? The possibilities are endless!
AEA would like to thank Derrick Gervin, Kari Greene, and the volunteers behind the Cultural Competence Working Group. This unique media project probes our evaluation community’s ability to practice past traditional avenues and challenges the ways in which evaluators are inclusive.
It is said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. What story does your photo tell? Send your story and photo to Derrick Gervin at email@example.com for inclusion in this video project. Take a look at the AEA Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation for inspiration.
Have a story to share for the AEA diversity column? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more on how to share your diversity in evaluation stories. I would love to share your story!
Potent Presentations Initiative - Announcing the Poster Contest Winners!
This year our panel of judges circulated the poster session and chose two winners. Read on to see the winning posters and hear from the poster team members.
Winner #1: Kristina Lara, Diana Harbison, Kendra Kintzi, Wendy Smith, and Charlie Cummings
The team described their design process this way:
The design process for creating the poster was illustrative of the very theme conveyed in the poster – an iterative, collaborative, and effective effort between the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and Manhattan Strategy Group, as the external evaluator. To simplify our concept into a poster design, we first jointly identified key elements we wanted to convey (customized evaluation design, specialized research expertise, continual consultation, feedback at multiple points, and continual improvement of decision-making based on the evaluation findings). To attract the attention of the audience and serve as a conversation starter, we identified images that emphasized the international and development aspects of our work and charts and graphs to show the use of data, the impact of USTDA’s work, and how our process bore results. Ultimately, working as a team, we came up with a visually digestible poster that struck a balance between text and graphics, colors and shapes, and negative and positive spaces.
The poster successfully uses colors, big pictures, and data visualization to communicate key points. The poster isn’t overloaded with text; rather, there’s just enough text to support the content. Nice!
Winner #2: William Faulkner and João Martinho
The authors had this to say about their poster:
This poster's content is predicated on popularizing a simple, free MS Excel plugin that can help evaluation students, freelancers, or small firms access the world of network analysis. As for the poster itself, drawing the design process is easier than writing about it, and we were driven by a simple principle: understand what the target audience considers relevant and where this overlaps with that which we desire to communicate. The poster attempts to both express and zoom in on this intersection.
The poster relies on one spot color (green), arrows, and light background colors to guide the reader through the poster and the work it represents. The bold headings framed as questions further serve to draw the reader in. Beautiful and engaging!
Meet Aimee White: Incoming Board Member-at-Large
Aimee White is the owner and principal evaluator of Custom Evaluation Services (CES), a private independent community-based evaluation consulting firm specializing in collaborative, participatory, and empowerment evaluation practices. Aimee has been an evaluator for more than 10 years, and the CES staff spans the nation geographically as well as in content focus.
The firm focuses on all aspects of the social and human service sector, ranging in clients from ex-offender re-entry to arts and ballet companies. The staff enjoy working with the small, community-based organizations that are meeting the needs of community members on a daily basis. They help them focus on their outcomes and achieve the goals of making their communities a better place for all.
Aimee's academic training includes studies in political science, educational leadership, educational theory and policy, and social work. She currently lives in Seattle, but she was born in North Carolina. She has studied at Vanderbilt University, The Pennsylvania State University, and The University of South Carolina.
In her ballot statement, White stated:
The opportunity to serve AEA at the national board level is an obvious way for me to give back to a professional community that has trained, supported, and grown me over the years. I consider it a high honor to be able to give back by serving on the board. I hope that my contributions at that level can offer someone like me the chance to learn about and grow to love this field as much as I do.
AEA Announces 2014 Award Winners
The American Evaluation Association honored four individuals at its 2014 Awards Luncheon in Denver, Colorado. Honored this year were recipients in four categories involved with cutting-edge evaluation/research initiatives that have impacted citizens around the world. We'll spotlight each award in upcoming issues. Today, we extend our congratulations to Bianca Montrosse-Moorhead!
Bianca Montrosse-Moorhead, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut
2014 Marcia Guttentag Promising New Evaluator Award
Since 2013, Montrosse-Moorhead has been an assistant professor in the measurement, evaluation, and assessment program at the University of Connecticut. At the university, she also serves as the program coordinator for the graduate certificate program in program evaluation and a research scientist with the newly formed cross-departmental collaborative on strategic education reform. Motivated by a desire to bridge gaps between the academic and practical domains of Evaluation and to contribute evaluative knowledge that promotes program and policy reform, her scholarship is guided by three primary goals: (1) to develop stronger evidence-based evaluation practices, models, and theories; (2) to advance valid and actionable evaluative knowledge to the policy community; and (3) to examine the inputs, process, and impact of pre-K - 12 policies, practices, and programs designed to promote social betterment and educational equity. Montrosse-Moorhead received her Ph.D. in psychology with a concentration in evaluation and applied research methods from Claremont Graduate University in 2009.
“Without agenda, I give a lot of myself to the discipline and practice of Evaluation. And so, personally, I am unbelievably humbled and honored to be the recipient of this year’s AEA Marcia Guttentag Promising New Evaluator Award,” said Montrosse-Moorhead. “I believe this award reflects both my past and promise as an evaluation scholar and practitioner, as well as my unwavering commitment to the field through my service to AEA.”