Building a Sustainable Pipeline for Future Evaluators
From Anisha Lewis, AEA Executive Director
Our year is off to a great start, as we narrow our focus on the needs of our members and establish AEA’s role in society. With a fixed eye on areas for improvement, we are constantly identifying strategies to improve our operations so we can maintain a sustainable structure that will ensure the organization’s longevity, and offer a space for future evaluators to continue furthering the mission of AEA. We have made significant strides over the years in terms of programming, communications, conferences and governance, but we must now focus on growth.
AEA is dedicated to providing professional development opportunities for students to develop applied skills in evaluation that will prepare them for the challenges they will face as professional evaluators. We must incorporate programming to bridge the gap to help evaluation students acquire sound evaluation skills, proficiency and confidence. Our Graduate Evaluation Diversity Internship Program (GEDI) is one vehicle to provide these supports, and we are forming a working group to evaluate the program and its capacity to expand. In the meantime, as we commit to being future-focused, we want to make more resources available to all students. This will support our goal of having a sustainable pipeline for future evaluators, who will continue to advance our work and uphold our values so AEA continues to be of service to future generations.
Some of our strategies include recruiting new student members through outreach to colleges and universities who offer evaluation programs, and offering professional development webinars for students. We also want to maximize opportunities for students to make professional connections at the annual conference.
Student outreach and development is but one of our key priorities for this year. Others include member engagement, diversity, industry-wide advocacy and maximizing AEA’s reach and influence to make a difference in our world.
Additional areas of focus include:
- Establishing financial policies and improved budgeting practices to ensure AEA’s fiscal stability
- Reviewing our processes to ensure equity on all levels
- Formation of a new working group to focus on diversity
- Increased number of Town Hall meetings to offer more opportunities for member engagement
- Increasing value for AEA membership
Our staff continues to work closely with the AEA Board of Directors to ensure that operational decisions reflect the mission, ethics and values of the association. As stakeholders of this association, I want you to know that we are listening to your feedback and making choices to uphold your values. The staff is dedicated to delivering service that responds to what matters most to you. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with suggestions at email@example.com.
From Leslie Goodyear, AEA Past President
In a new effort to model transparency, we will regularly share updates from the AEA Board of Directors to give members a window into what we’re considering, actions we’re taking, and how we’re making the most of our time together to move the organization forward. As with all our member engagement activities, we’re most interested in listening and learning about you, your evaluation world and your vision for a bright future for the association and the field.
The 2019 Board of Directors had its first meeting in Washington, D.C., in January. Tessie Catsambas took the gavel as president and we welcomed President-Elect Aimee White and new Board members Hanife Cakici, Lisa Aponte-Soto, and Wanda Casillas. We started by finalizing a few items from 2018, getting ourselves organized for what we want to achieve in 2019, and, with our revised policies in place, setting a vision for what we can achieve for the association this year.
- In December 2018, the Board of Directors voted to approve a new AEA Harassment and Discrimination policy and Code of Conduct for the Board and volunteers; we received training on how to implement these important policies and we will be rolling them out to members soon.
- Building on the field-mapping work we did last year – and Tessie Catsambas discussed in her summer Town Hall Meeting – we revisited the map of the evaluation marketplace and plan to use it to frame our Board learning agenda for the year.
- The Board participated in a racial equity training, a first of many trainings and discussions that will set the stage for ensuring the association “walks the talk” on important social justice issues.
- And as always, we heard updates from Anisha Lewis, executive director, regarding new initiatives and plans for the conference. She and the Treasurer facilitated a generative conversation about creative approaches to revenue generation for the association.
All in all, it was a dynamic meeting, jam-packed with information and ideas!
As we do our business, we maintain a strong commitment to you, our members. Members are “IN” the Board meeting—we talk a lot about what members think and want, we care about members’ needs and we want to be good stewards of your trust.
So, what do you think? What kind of information would you like to hear from the Board? We’ll be using the newsletter to communicate ideas, questions, and information on a regular basis.
You can always share your insights, ideas and point to important issues for AEA and the field by visiting the Issues and Ideas Portal on the AEA website. (You can also find it by logging in and searching for it under the “Members” dropdown menu on the homepage.)
Lastly, in case you were wondering, the AEA past president is, by policy, the Board Secretary. In this role, I’ll be keeping track of Board activities and sharing updates with members.
On behalf of the AEA Board, yours in service,
Leslie Goodyear, AEA Past President
The Value of Evaluative Thinking
From Robert Hoke, AEA member and independent consultant
Like many of my AEA compatriots, I started in evaluation almost by accident. I was working for a local United Way in the early 1990s when the national organization started to promote program logic modeling as a tool for describing programs. Agencies described their programs in terms of units of service—outputs, in program logic speak—and outcomes were new and scary. Almost 30 years later, I find that my work still goes back to those early days of building understanding, reducing anxiety, and relishing the “a-ha” moment a client has when the pieces of a theory of change fall into place.
Evaluation was only a small part of my contracts when I started my consulting business in 1998. My focus at the time was on community needs assessments and strategic planning. A multi-year evaluation contract led me to seek out additional professional development, and I attended my first AEA meeting in St. Louis in 2001. Since that time, AEA has not only been my go-to source for building my evaluation tool-kit but also my inspiration as an evaluation professional.
I encourage AEA members to stretch outside their regular work and explore other areas to use the toolsets you have developed. I have found that my non-evaluation work has significantly benefited from applying evaluative thinking, especially in the area of strategic planning. The relationship between evaluation and strategic planning is perhaps best summed up by Michael Quinn Patton’s two key questions:
- Are we doing things in the right way? (Evaluation)
- Are we doing the right things? (Strategic Planning)
Measurable outcomes, mixed methods of data collection, facilitation skills, and asking the critical questions are all part of sound strategic planning and are components of the evaluator’s toolset.
Remember the Accidental Evaluator
Many of my clients do not have evaluation or evaluator in their job titles, and few have ever attended an evaluation conference or workshop – just like me when I started in the business. My role as a consultant is one of building an organization’s internal capacity and often translating the knowledge I have gained from AEA and other professional development for the accidental evaluator.
Reference the Guiding Principles
I also believe it is important to help our clients and stakeholders understand that evaluation is a profession with standards to uphold. For example, I sometimes include a reference to AEA’s Guiding Principles in my contracts with an attached copy as an addendum. The inclusion of the Principles has often led to a very informative up-front discussion about expectations and the role of the evaluator.
Don’t Forget Those Local Affiliates
Over the years, I have also been able to share some of my AEA learnings through my local affiliate, the Indiana Evaluation Association (IEA). In January, a group of us who attended the 2018 AEA Conference presented what we learned and various resources to the IEA Quarterly Meeting. The session was a great opportunity to pass on what we have learned and reinforce our own understandings.
Robert Hoke is an independent consultant based in Indianapolis, Indiana. He has been a member of AEA since 2001. He has a B.A. in Political Science, Sociology, and Economics from Hope College and a Masters of Public Affairs from Indiana University.
Submit an Article or Update for an Upcoming AEA Newsletter
Travel Award Applications and International Events
From Mishkah Jakoet, International and Cross Cultural Evaluation (ICCE) Topical Interest Group (TIG) Chair
Happy 2019 to all from the new leadership of the International and Cross-Cultural Evaluation (ICCE) Topical Interest Group (TIG)!
This year has kicked off to a great start, with the launch of AEA International Travel Awards to attend and present at the 2019 AEA Annual Conference. If you’re a professional evaluator living and practicing in an emerging country, please visit this link to access the application information. Please also reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be a reviewer.
Spotlight on International Events
We are just a few weeks out from the 9th African Evaluation Association Conference. It will be hosted from March 11-15, 2019 at the Sofitel Hotel in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. With the theme Accelerating Africa’s Development: Strengthening National Evaluation Systems, it is certain to advance AfREA’s “Made in Africa” approach.
The Asia Pacific Evaluation Association held their second conference from February 25 – March 1, 2019, and was themed Reducing Poverty-Enabling Peace: Evaluation for Accountability, Transparency and Sustainable Development.
Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) also hosted the 2019 Metrics from the Ground Up conference from February 18-19, 2019, with the theme of Impact Measurement with a Gender Lens.
Visit The International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS) website for more global events, and send details of upcoming events to email@example.com.
Writing a Winning Conference Proposal: Part II
From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator
It’s coming up fast! Proposals for Evaluation 2019 are due in just a couple of weeks (March 18 – see more here). Last month, I shared a number of tips for proposal writing, and this month, I’ll finish off that list with a few more tips.
First off, remember that your conference proposal is the foundation of your presentations and must be well-conceived and well-written to be accepted.
Again, these tips are not just for Evaluation 2019, but for any conference. Most emerged from many years of reviewing conference proposals for AEA and other professional organizations.
- Consider your audience – not just the reviewers, but those who will attend your session. What do they care about? What interests them? Why would they want to attend your session?
- Connect to the theme of the conference, but don’t stretch! Make sure it’s a reasonable and credible link. Take the time to think it through. Reviewers can detect when a connection to a theme feels forced.
- Stay within word counts, but try to use most (if not all) of the space allotted. Some reviewers will see it as a lack of care and effort on your part if a proposal field (e.g., a relevance statement) is allowed 500 words and you only use 50.
- Write for clarity and understanding. Reviewers are familiar with the field in general, but not necessarily with your specific topic.
- Proofread! Remember your MUGS – mechanics, usage, grammar, and spelling. Consider engaging a second set of eyes before submitting. Too often, though we are capable writers, typos and simple mistakes (e.g., a missing word in a sentence) make their way into our work and we’re too close to the work to see them.
Bonus tip for Evaluation 2019: A very common complaint of AEA conference-goers is that presenters spend too much time explaining the details of the program, when the audience wants to hear about the evaluation. Audience members are looking for the takeaways, how-to’s, lessons learned, innovative ideas, and information they can apply to their own contexts and projects. Think of the program details as an appendix, and offer participants a way to look up information on their own or contact you with questions after the conference.
Can you spot the mistake? Did you catch it the first time you looked at the graphic?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk! I’m happy to help, offer guidance, or collaborate on any of these.
Submit an Evaluation 2019 Proposal Today!
The American Evaluation Association (AEA) is now accepting session proposal submissions for Evaluation 2019! Taking place November 11 – 16 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Evaluation 2019 is AEA’s annual conference that focuses on best practices and trends impacting the field of evaluation.
Submit your proposal on a topic following one of these presentation types: panel discussions, expert lectures, roundtables, skill-building workshops, ignite sessions, or birds of a feather gatherings. We are looking for both creative thinking and variety in your submissions.
Don’t miss this opportunity to present in front of a global audience of more than 3,000 colleagues! All submissions are due March 18, 2019.
Did you miss any AEA Town Hall meetings? You can now access them on AEA’s website here. This year's topics include a review of the AEA Guiding Principles, issues and opportunities confronting the field of evaluation and new AEA evaluator competencies.
On-Demand Resources Available
From the AEA Education Team
The Digital Knowledge Hub is an online platform featuring professional development opportunities for evaluators, by evaluators. Check out prerecorded eStudies now available for purchase, including ones like:
eStudy 093: Introduction to Usability/UX Testing for Evaluators
You will learn key concepts around what usability is, when to choose this method, how it relates to other forms of evaluation research, how to plan, design and report on a usability study. You will have a bibliography of the best Web sites, books, organizations and other resources to continue your journey on your own at the end of the webinar.
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.