AEA Newsletter: December 2017

Message from the Executive Director

From Denise Roosendaal, AEA Executive Director 

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“Nothing is permanent but change.” - Heraclitus of Ephesus

What has AEA accomplished? I am extremely proud of what AEA has accomplished in the past several years. With 7,500 members in over 100 countries, AEA is strong and poised to continue making great strides. The board and staff are focused on serving the members and creating value for AEA’s membership. With the Strategic Plan focused on achieving the organization’s Ends Goals, AEA is positioned to influence the future of evaluation, provide professional development for evaluators at a variety of levels, help others understand the effect of evaluation in society, and inform evaluation policy. We have an exciting professional development plan with a new Learning Management System to be unveiled in the coming months. Training will be available at all times online, giving members the flexibility to learn at an individualized pace, as schedules allow. We are also working on tools to assist members in explaining what evaluation is to unfamiliar audiences. And to ensure we are listening to all voices in our community, we are creating opportunities for more member and topical interest group (TIG) input into strategic and operational challenges and opportunities. The future is bright and the direction is compelling.

What I have learned? I have learned a tremendous amount in the past four and a half years with AEA. I have witnessed the power of evaluation to view current societal challenges and circumstances in order to imagine how they can be improved. I have seen the AEA membership demonstrate that this passionate and engaged community is the organization’s best asset. This community has also led by example and reminded me of the importance of honoring a variety of opinions and collaborating in a way that moves the organization forward. I have learned that process is important as well as product; and excellence – not perfection – is a most powerful, and sometimes elusive, goal. Continuous improvement should include short- and long-term plans. Above all, I have seen that AEA members are incredibly dedicated to their profession, their organization, and the organization’s values.

What do I hope for the new Executive Director? In my new role with AEA, I will lead the onboarding process for the new Executive Director and continue in an oversight role within the management framework. (Read an update on the ED search.) I hope this well-designed transition will help preserve institutional memory, minimize any gaps in learning and provide stability for the AEA management team. I am confident the new Executive Director will be thoughtful yet steadfast in creating opportunities for change that honor the past, respect AEA’s unique culture, and create a fascinating and robust future. I hope the new Executive Director will be greeted warmly, so that this individual’s strengths may shine brightly and take AEA to new levels. I look forward to assisting the new Executive Director in hitting the ground running. With the strong financial foundation, the direction of the Strategic Plan, the support of the Board and membership, and the assistance of a cohesive management team, I believe this individual will be set up for success. I expect the Board will maintain its commitment to envisioning the future (through their policy governance model), which allows the operational strengths of management and the knowledge of the leadership to create a powerful momentum. There will always be challenges – a reality in organizational management – so I expect the new Executive Director will benefit greatly from your patience, wisdom, and constructive input.

Thank you for the honor and privilege of serving this extraordinary organization.

Call for Volunteers: Membership Working Group and Conference Advisory Working Group

Are you an AEA member who is looking to get more involved with AEA in 2018? Are you passionate about providing key insights to AEA to inform important membership or conference decisions? Are you looking to expand your network of colleagues? You should consider joining the Membership Working Group or the Conference Advisory Working Group in 2018!

About Working Groups:

Volunteering on a Working Group requires a commitment to AEA and the assigned program or project. The work product of each Working Group is outlined in individual Charge Documents that also address deadline expectations. Openings on Working Groups occur throughout the year as projects conclude and new projects begin. Meeting scheduling and frequency for each Working Group are established through consultation between the Working Group chair and members and AEA staff. Working Groups report to the Executive Director and include an AEA staff liaison to support the work. The staff makes every attempt to accommodate requests without making any particular Working Group too large and unwieldy. Other Working Group openings will be announced throughout the year.

About the Membership Working Group:

AEA is looking for passionate volunteers to serve as a sounding board for new membership initiatives and ideas. They will assist management in providing guidance for new membership innovations.

About the Conference Advisory Working Group:

AEA is looking for volunteers to join the Conference Advisory Working Group. This group’s charge is to assist management in reviewing possible changes to conference structure and evaluating potential innovations. (This group does not consider changes to the TIG review submission or process.)

How to Apply:

If you are interested, please send an email to info@eval.org indicating which Working Group interests you by January 31, 2017. Please note that you must be a member in good standing in order to serve AEA in a volunteer capacity. For questions, please contact Denise Roosendaal, AEA Executive Director at droosendaal@eval.org, or the AEA Membership and Operations team at info@eval.org.

Evaluation Policy Task Force Openings

December 2017

The Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF), established in 2009, has been the driving force behind AEA’s influence on evaluation-related policy on the federal level. The EPTF now has three openings (three year terms each) on the twelve member body. We invite you to apply.

Under the leadership of George Grob and on behalf of AEA’s membership, the EPTF influenced the understanding and use of evaluation at the federal level in recent years. The EPTF created AEA’s Evaluation Roadmap and informed the findings of the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking. The Commission’s final report issued in September includes a variety of positive references to evaluation. (For other policy related articles on the Commission report, see the September AEA newsletter.)

After eight years leading the EPTF, George Grob is stepping down. AEA owes him a debt of gratitude for his wise counsel and dedicated leadership.

“We have been truly fortunate and have benefited greatly from George's leadership of the Task Force,” AEA President Kathy Newcomer said. “He has deep knowledge of our government and the public policy deliberations space to have ensured that the interests of AEA and the broader evaluation community were brought to the forefront. Thank you, George!" 

Succeeding George as chair of EPTF is Nick Hart, a director at the Bipartisan Policy Center with a decade of experience working on evaluation policy issues in the federal government. Other EPTF members continuing in 2018 include: Mel Mark, Co-Chair, Katrina Bledsoe, Katherine Dawes, George Julnes, Stephanie Shipman, and Executive Director Denise Roosendaal. Mary Hyde and Jonathan Breul are both coming off the Task Force. We greatly appreciate their input and dedication. The group is also assisted by the work of the AEA policy consultant Cheryl Oros.

The Task Force meets on a regular basis for approximately an hour. In 2017, the group typically met on the third Friday of each month.  Per the appointment policy, the Executive Committee, the chair of the EPTF, and the Executive Director will review the applications and appoint the new members of the EPTF. Please submit a self-nomination including the reasons why you would like to serve and a description of your relevant experience or qualifications by February 5, 2018. Please email your submission to EPTFnomination@eval.org.

Diversity

Year in Review

From Zachary Grays, AEA Headquarters

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This year AEA and the evaluation community had many WINS in the area of diversity and inclusivity initiatives. From right here at the association to our local affiliates, there were a number of efforts that took diversity and culturally responsive evaluation head-on, as well as engaged evaluation professionals in thoughtful dialogue about the impact of the work evaluators do. The initiatives have been intentional in their purpose and execution, fruitful in their depth of exploration, sometimes uncomfortable, and engaged commentary from evaluators across the globe. Below is a quick round-up of some of the most invigorating stories from this year.

¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc. 

Intentional Inclusivity at its Best: ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc. 2017 Social Justice & Evaluation Conference 

Milkwaukee Evaluation.jpgOn March 2, 2017: We nailed it! We held our third Social Justice & Evaluation Conference as the Wisconsin statewide affiliate of the American Evaluation Association. More than 130 evaluators, students, funders and evaluation consumers joined us for the daylong event. And, we really did rock it!

We're so enthusiastic because we did it with little to no money, volunteered time, and an abundance of good will and dedication. The political landscape in our country and Wisconsin over the past decade (or more) have made social justice and inclusion an awkward experience (i.e., evaluation settings where good intentions are mixed with explicit and implicit bias, microaggressions, or blind spots and inequitable distribution of power). Continue reading

Accelerating the Use of Culturally Responsive Evaluation

On October 25, 2017, ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc., the Wisconsin statewide AEA affiliate, and Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the largest community foundation in Wisconsin, held a moderated panel titled, Achieving Racial Equity by Changing the Dynamic Between Residents and Decision-makers: A Look at Culturally Responsive Grant-making Practice and Evaluation. Our panelists were Sharlen Moore, Director, Youth Justice League and Urban Underground, Milwaukee, WI; Caronina Grimble, Program Officer, Woods Fund, Chicago, IL; and Paul Elam, President, Public Policy Associates, Lansing, MI. 

The event was moderated by affiliate members Michelle Robinson, Research, Data & Policy Associate at Kids Forward, and Melissa Petts, Undergraduate Student in Education at UW-Milwaukee. (If you are interested to learn more about the panelists, take a look at their bios.) 

The panel was a step in the right direction, a pivotal moment, and can be acknowledged as a satisfying win that grew out of years of organizational learning and relationship building between an AEA affiliate and a local funder. Continue reading

Race and Class Dialogues

This year AEA, with generous support from W.K. Kellogg Foundation, embarked on hosting a series of national dialogues to reflect and promote positive actions on the deeply rooted and structurally intertwined issues behind the headlines that propel racial, ethnic, and class disparities in our society. These complimentary discussions, moderated by Dr. Melvin Hall, Northern Arizona University Professor, Former Member of the AEA Board of Directors, brought together evaluators, policy analysts, applied researchers, and local activists to discern ways to proactively engage entrenched issues as the nation went from one headline-making incident to the next.  

To take a look into all three discussions and the final culminating video from these poignant dialogues, click here.

African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) Conference, Kampala, Uganda

In March, the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) held its eighth conference in Kampala, Uganda. The 687 delegates in attendance represented more than 70 countries, with the United States having the third largest attendance after Uganda and Kenya. The conference offered delegates 60 workshops and 19 session strands. Forty-two donors, including AEA, supported the event.

In particular, AEA, in partnership with the South African M&E Association (SAMEA), organized and sponsored the strand on Professionalizing Evaluation. A prominent point of discussion throughout the meeting concerned the challenges faced by voluntary organizations for the professionalization of evaluation to address and support the Sustainable Development Goals. Multiple sessions in the Professionalizing Evaluation strand focused on ongoing efforts around the world to support professionalization in evaluation. Continue reading

Every year I bring you this “Year in Review” as a reminder of what AEA has done to engage the global evaluation community on the critical topic of diversity. As we go into the holiday season and into the new year, my hope is that these stories from 2017 invigorate your participation in diversity in 2018. To make a difference and affect change. What is so mesmerizing about the place of evaluation in the world is that it has the power to positively impact change for the communities for which evaluators serve. May this “recap” remind you what and who drives your work and AEA’s chosen vision “…to foster an inclusive, diverse, and international community of practice positioned as a respected source of information for and about the field of evaluation.”

Have a story to share? Email me at zgrays@eval.org.

International Evaluation Update

 From Cindy Clapp-Wincek and Shawna Hoffman

Shawna_Cindy.jpgIt has been an exciting year for those of us who are committed to advancing international evaluation. The 2017 American Evaluation Association (AEA) conference welcomed an unprecedented number of international attendees – a total of 496 people from 86 countries across Africa, Asia, North, South and Central America, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania. This vast regional representation was added to, in part, by the International Travel Awards, which are anchored by AEA’s International and Cross Cultural Evaluation (ICCE) Topical Interest Group (TIG).

Through funds raised during last year’s Silent Auction, matched by AEA’s own funds, plus the support of a few generous donors, AEA provided travel awards to a total of 17 international evaluators – over triple the number from the previous year. This year the Silent Auction raised $9,300 which will be used to support next year’s awardees. The ICCE TIG leadership made a deliberate effort to ensure regional representation for the travel awards. The final group represented 12 countries across Africa (8), South Asia (4), Latin America (4) and the Middle East/North Africa (1). Notably, this year there were a total of 72 Travel Award applicants, compared to 46 and 57 in 2016 and 2015, respectively. This is an exciting signal that AEA is broadening its reach and attracting an increasing number of colleagues from across the globe. The ICCE TIG is the AEA’s largest with a total of 1,400 members, and among its most active.

Another way AEA supports the growth of evaluation practice and use around the world is through its support to the International Organization on Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE) and EvalPartners, which is the initiative to build and strengthen the global network of Voluntary Organizations for Professional Evaluation (VOPEs), launched jointly by IOCE and UNICEF in 2012. Cindy is AEA’s Representative to IOCE and EvalPartners and Kathy Newcomer was very active in her support of these international initiatives during her year as President of AEA in 2017.

IOCE and EvalPartners have been very active since the Global Forum in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in May of this year (discussed in the May AEA Newsletter). Some of the events they have supported and/or sponsored have included a 2nd EvalYouth Virtual Conference in November 2017 and a workshop on “Implementing EvalAgenda 2020: Professionalization of Evaluation in Partnership with Academic Institutions in the Eurasian Region," held in May 2017 in Yerevan, Armenia. More information is available in the EvalPartners Newsletter which can be found here

 

Walking the Talk with Michele Schmidt

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As 2017 comes to a close, it is important for evaluators to reflect inward on the values we share, and ensure our practices continue to align with these values. Here are some reflections on ways that my evaluation work has embodied AEA’s values and ways that I may continuously improve.

AEA members value “excellence in evaluation practice.” In recent years, many of my projects have focused on evaluating child welfare programs, such as support services for kinship caregivers who are taking care of a relative’s children, or a home visiting program that supports families to improve parenting skills and promote early childhood development. While I can easily get caught up in “evaluator talk” of identifying reliable and valid instruments that measure specific outcome domains, or analyzing aggregated program data, it is important to remember why we strive for excellence in our evaluation practice. At the heart of these projects are the children and families whom they serve. While I don’t provide direct services to these families, I feel I can impact them by providing high quality evaluation services. These projects utilize a mixed-methods approach that includes process, outcome, fidelity, and cost analysis components. Program staff are consistently telling me that by reviewing evaluation results with them on a periodic basis, this reflective practice helps them identify and celebrate their strengths, as well as brainstorm creative ways to improve programming. It is my hope that by providing excellence in evaluation practice these families will ultimately be better served and achieve the best possible outcomes.  

AEA members value “utilization of evaluation findings.” This specifically rings true to my evaluation practice. At LeCroy & Milligan Associates, our evaluation firm strives to provide program evaluation that is innovative, research-driven, practical, and useful. Behind every grant proposal or evaluation plan, regardless of the focus area, our underlying goal is to provide services that enable stakeholders and clients to document outcomes, provide accountability, and engage in continuous program improvement. Through transparent communication and forging strong client relationships, I value utilizing a collaborative and participative approach to evaluation. This allows clients to see the value of evaluation results as helping them to make data-driven decisions for program improvement.

AEA members value “inclusion and diversity in the evaluation community.” For the past three years, I have served as president of the Arizona Evaluation Network (AZENet), first as President-Elect, then President, and now Immediate Past President. Each year brought a new title, as well as a shift in my responsibilities. My favorite responsibility, although the most exhausting and time consuming, was planning our AZENet Spring Conference in 2016. Our Board felt it was important for our local AEA affiliate to host a conference that would have a wide draw of evaluators from across Arizona and the surrounding states. We offered a two-day event that included both a general conference and a more in-depth workshop, so evaluators could participate in one or both of the events. A two-day event also encouraged out-of-town travelers to make the trip for this more expansive professional development and networking opportunity. Every year, the AZENet Board has utilized these and other lessons learned to continually improve and diversify our professional development offerings in service to our local and regional evaluation community.

I encourage everyone to intentionally take a moment to reflect on how AEA’s core value statements (i-vi) have impacted your work and practice. Parallel to the reflective process that we facilitate with program staff, I encourage our evaluation community to take this opportunity to celebrate our successes and identify ways that we may continually improve our practices.  

Michele Cranwell Schmidt, MPA, is a Senior Evaluation Associate at LeCroy & Milligan Associates, Inc., a full service consulting firm located in Tucson, Arizona, that specializes in program evaluation, technical assistance and training that is innovative, research-driven, practical, and useful. She has worked in the field of evaluation for over 18 years in the areas of child welfare and social services; home visitation and early childhood education; and collaboration utilizing the Collective Impact approach. She is the 2017 Immediate Past President of the Arizona Evaluation Network, a local AEA Affiliate, and a member of the American Evaluation Association’s Qualitative and Mixed Methods Evaluation TIGs.
 

Potent Presentations Initiative

Upping Your Presentation Game with p2i in 2018  

From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator 

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Initiated by the AEA Board of Directors in 2012, p2i started as a website, training series, and space for free downloadable resources on how to message, design, and deliver conference presentations. In this announcement on AEA365, p2i’s initial Director, Stephanie Evergreen, described the project as existing for the purpose of “identifying and sharing research-based strategies to improve the quality of evaluators’ presentations, increasing the likelihood that your message is heard, retained, and used.” (Bonus: If you read the initial announcement on AEA365, be sure to read the comments. You’ll find a wealth of tips and tricks submitted by readers.)

P2i began with two free, downloadable tools. Today, there are 20 free tools and four webinars, and two of the tools are now available in French! Where will we go in 2018? In thinking about this, I took to social media with a brief survey, hoping to gather data from evaluators and help inform the future of p2i. The survey was shared across:

As of December 15, the survey had garnered more than 180 responses, and the data evaluators shared is certain to move this project forward in 2018. The next step is analysis, of course, but a quick glance tells me that evaluators are indeed interested in improving their presentation practice, are engaged with p2i resources, and are looking for more. I’ll share a more comprehensive review of survey results in early 2018. For now, here are a few tidbits:

  1. A majority of respondents anticipate giving presentations in the near future – mostly conference presentations, internal presentations, and professional development workshops.
  2. To improve their presentation practice, most respondents are interested in blog posts or articles on presentations, and downloadable resources.
  3. Evaluators want to up their presentation game in many ways, including engaging audiences, creating handouts, data visualization, crafting messages, gaining confidence, improving slides, and even reducing reliance on PowerPoint (or other programs) and presenting without slides.

Until next month, I’ll leave you with one idea to chew on, especially if public speaking isn’t your favorite activity. Check out this video from CBS News, "Audience dogs" help reduce anxiety over public speaking, for one way to practice your presentations.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year!
May all your 2018 presentations receive thunderous applause and high accolades!

p2i Needs Your Help!

  • Have you successfully used p2i tools or p2i principles in your presentations?
  • Do you have “before” and “after” slide examples you would be willing to share?
  • Do you have ideas for, or are you interested in writing a blog article on Potent Presentations?
  • Do you have an interest in sharing your tips for Potent Presentations through a brief video or webinar?

Please contact me at p2i@eval.org and let’s talk! I’m happy to help, offer guidance, or collaborate on any of these.
 

Register for the Evaluation Policy Task Force Webinar Jan. 23

Did you miss the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) session at Evaluation 2017? Join your colleagues Tuesday, January 23, 2018, at 2 p.m. ET for a webinar to get caught up on the advocacy work the EPTF accomplished in 2017. This session will provide an update on their work and invite Member input on their plans and actions. The EPTF drafts evaluation policies for the AEA, conducts outreach to advocate for evaluation to government at the federal, state, and international levels and interfaces with AEA members to obtain input on policies. The EPTF has provided an update and invited discussion at each AEA conference since its inception in 2007.

Register for the webinar here.
 

Early 2018 Learning Opportunities

A new year comes with new opportunities to invest in your professional development. Here are a few eStudy sessions AEA is offering in early 2018.

January

Beginning January 23rd 
Intermediate Consulting Skills: Dr. Gail Vallance Barrington returns to AEA eStudies with a 3-hour webinar series that will explore small business demands and challenges that come with managing a consulting practice. This two-day workshop series is highly recommended for evaluators and applied researchers who are looking to hone entrepreneurial and small business management skills to become successful independent consultants. Learn more and register here.

February

Beginning February 6th
Using Correlation and Regression: Mediation, Moderation, and More:
Multiple regression is a powerful and flexible tool that has wide applications in evaluation and applied research. Join Dale E. Berger, PhD, in for a four-day workshop series that will explore preparing data for analysis, selecting models, running analysis, interpreting results, and presenting your findings to a non-technical audience. The workshop will include demonstrations by the facilitator, as well as detailed handouts to guide future applications. Learn more and register here.   

 

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