Updates from the AfrEA Conference, Town Hall Planning, and More
From Tessie Catsambas, AEA President
Warm greetings to the AEA family! At the time of writing this, I was in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, at the ninth International Conference of the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA). (See photo, left.) The theme of the conference was to accelerate Africa’s development by strengthening national evaluation ecosystems and through a “Made in Africa” evaluation lens. I heard many echoing messages that evaluation in Africa must be led by and grant voice to its citizens, as well as strengthen democratic decision making. There were also discussions on diversity, inclusion, and equity, such as how to include the LGBTIQ community, people living with HIV/AIDS, women, youth, and other marginalized communities, and how to reduce violence and protect human rights in and through evaluation.
We at the AEA are having similar discussions; I have encouraged our colleagues from Africa to submit proposals and share their experiences and ideas at our AEA conference this year. A big congratulations to the AfrEA President Adeline Sibanda, the AfrEA Board of Directors and all the volunteers for hosting a great conference here!
Back home, on the AEA Board of Directors, there is a lot happening. The talent and commitment of our board members to the association and its values is phenomenal – a big shout out to the professionalism with which the board does its work.
At present, the board has been discussing how we and the association as a whole can increase member engagement, embrace diversity, and create visible paths to for AEA service roles for our members. For example, to ensure all members know what we are doing, the board has begun to provide highlights of our work and deliberations in this newsletter. We are getting ready to dive deeper into the fiduciary responsibility of board members, to provide feedback and vote on the budget in the spring. We are also gearing up to tackle an evaluation of AEA operations, and deliberate on how best to execute our role in that area.
Additionally, my role has allowed me to gain visibility into the work of our amazing Executive Director Anisha Lewis and the AEA staff, and it is a lot more than I ever imagined. Anisha Lewis, Zachary Grays, Laura DeMaria, Natalie DeHart, and many others are working hard to keep up with all of us, and we are ever so grateful for their service. Both participation and stakeholder engagement takes time and money, and the AEA is blessed with a passionate and active membership.
Continuing in the theme of open discussion and information-sharing, AEA is pleased to announce our first Town Hall of 2019! Anisha and I will speak about the AEA governance system on Thursday, April 18, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. (Register here.) While this topic sounds dry, it is actually really exciting. Our AEA Board has transitioned from an executive board leadership to adopting a policy governance model that was mandated by the rapid growth of the AEA. This transition has been long and challenging. We owe gratitude for past boards and staff that have continued to shape our system of governance, and what we love about it.
During this Town Hall, we will discuss the smart adaptation of policy-based governance to fit the AEA requirements, and what you can expect from it as members. We intend to dispel common misconceptions, and invite you to pose your hardest and most challenging questions to us. Your questions will help increase clarity and common understanding, and at the same time, help us improve our system.
After that, our May Town Hall will focus on AEA’s practices to promote diversity and inclusion. In the June Town Hall, we will share exciting updates and the implications of the bilateral legislation for use of evidence in policy making. In fact, our Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) is helping the AEA advocate for increased demand for evaluation in federal agencies, and we see significant need at the state and local levels, as well where we can support our members and local affiliates. We look forward to engaging with you at these Town Hall meetings.
Let me end this message with a note on Evaluation 2019, our upcoming conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thank you to all of you who have submitted proposals, and to the AEA veterans who have actively helped colleagues to join panels and put forth ideas. Program co-chairs Tom Archibald and Melissa Chapman and the AEA staff have been great at helping shape the conference, and I am grateful for all the amazing work they will continue to do throughout this year.
As we close out on proposal submissions, look out for our upcoming invitation for videos from young and emerging evaluators, and from students of evaluation in April! These short videos will invite submissions by members of EvalYouth, GEDI, universities everywhere, and ad-hoc groups of new evaluators to share their thoughts and ideas about the key ingredients for the future of evaluation—when they will be leading our community. Keep your eyes peeled for this exciting initiative.
We have much to look forward to this year, and we’re still only just a few months in. I hope to see you (virtually) in our upcoming Town Halls, and encourage you to continue to actively participate in all the AEA has to offer. It’s your active engagement that, in part, only makes us stronger!
Featuring Giovanni Dazzo
Name: Giovanni Dazzo
Affiliation: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Degrees: George Mason University – Ph.D. Education, Research Methodology (in progress); Bocconi University, Milan – MPA; University of California, Los Angeles – B.A. Anthropology and Political Science
Years in the Evaluation Field: 10
Joined AEA: 2013
Why do you belong to AEA?
I believe that when you belong to a professional association like AEA, you have the opportunity to improve or push the field forward. When you’re more involved—whether that includes TIG leadership, joint membership in a local affiliate, or volunteering—it can show that you see evaluation as being more than just a job. You see it as something that you have invested in not only for your benefit, but for the growth and evolution of the field.
I started my career in applied research and program evaluation outside of the U.S., after completing my undergraduate degree. As I progressed in my career and moved from one country to another, I started to realize the importance of a professional network. After moving back to the U.S. in 2013, I joined AEA and noticed that it was much more than a way to network or a venue to build skills. AEA members have a strong sense of community and I have appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with and be mentored by evaluators with extensive experience.
What is the most memorable or meaningful evaluation you have been a part of?
A few years ago, I was part of an evaluation in Burma (Myanmar) to understand the extent that assistance allowed former political prisoners to reintegrate into society upon their release. The evaluation included quantitative and qualitative components, and we designed the evaluation alongside a local partner.
We structured the qualitative component around a community consultation, and questioned how the data collection process could be less extractive. Along with the local partner, we built in ways where participants could practice collecting data from other former political prisoners, so they could see how to use certain methods to gather data for their continuing advocacy initiatives and community organizing. The entire process—from co-creating consent forms, collaborative data collection and analysis, and prioritizing participants’ recommendations in publications—was a meaningful learning experience in community engagement and participatory and collaborative evaluation.
What advice would you give to those new to the field?
I would recommend that those new to the field join their local affiliates. Joining a national association like AEA and attending the annual conference can be overwhelming, especially if it is your first time or if you are on your own. New and established evaluators can use local affiliates as a way to complement their AEA experience. As affiliates host events throughout the year, it provides exposure to more frequent networking and skill building, much like having an AEA conference throughout the year. In the Washington, D.C. area, our local affiliate (Washington Evaluators) organizes professional development, dinners, and field trips; a mentorship program; pro bono evaluation opportunities; and a weekly digest with evaluation news and opportunities.
The Face of AEA features the association's members - sharing their background, why they joined and what some of their most memorable experiences have been. Know someone who should be interviewed? Email the AEA editor, Kristin Fields, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Nicole Bowman, PhD, IPE TIG Co-Chair, Member of AEA IWG, and EvalIndigenous Task Force Member
The Indigenous Peoples’ conference on evaluation took place February 7-9, 2019 in Rotorua, New Zealand. It was the first ever global Indigenous evaluation conference, because during the conference the members of the EvalIndigenous task force (a group under EvalPartners global initiative), met together for planning and agenda setting; we were inspired and informed by the activities and people attending the Ma te Rae conference. The conference was framed by four key kaupapa/themes: our environment, our language and culture, our well-being, and our future generations. Two critical interconnecting themes are “claiming the space” (self-determination) and “traditional knowledge. More information about the conference is here.
Approximately 120 individuals attended, the majority being Indigenous (see photo, left). Participants came from Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australia, the continental United States, Africa, Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, Samoa, and within the Arctic Circle. There were over 100 tribes/tribal nations represented. There were four keynote speakers, 18 presenters and four elders (the Kahui Pakeke). A beautiful three minute video set to music provides highlights of the conference on the Ma te Rae Facebook page here. You may also see the livestreams of all the presenters via the videos posted on their Facebook homepage here.
I presented twice during the conference on the subjects of origin stories and sovereignty in evaluation. Claiming the space, protecting the sacred, and building capacities and competencies in the field of evaluation are needed for culturally responsive practices and inclusion of the unique political and legal rights of Tribal/First Nations and community members. I also participated in the EvalIndigenous planning meeting as AEA’s representative and as the current task force leader, helping to develop a foundation paper for EvalIndigenous that is academic, culturally comprehensive, and practical for our community-centered global approach to evaluation.
During the Ma te Rae conference, the EvalIndigenous task force members also met. We have been in existence since 2015 and Larry Bremner (past Canadian Evaluation Society president) is our global founder. Our work includes making intentional connections to include the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) in all of our community-centered and academic work of the EvalPartners global task force. Continuation of the Native Voices project, submission of a paper to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO’s) “International Year of Indigenous Languages” (IYIL), and implementing and/or modifying the EvalIndigenous 2020 agenda to inform the EvalSDG2030 plan is on the forefront of our current activities. There are at least five new articles coming out regarding the work of EvalIndigenous and multiple sessions that will be held at CREA (Mar 2019), CES 2019 (May 2019), and AEA (Nov 2019) to provide updates. Globally our team meets monthly online so there are many more activities going on than what this report provides for.
The bottom line is that EvalIndigenous is a small but active group who are engaged in Indigenous evaluation “by us and for us.” We do outreach constantly and are making new networks, sustaining partnerships, and growing our capacities and resources to fulfill our purposes of: strengthening the enabling environment for evaluation, strengthening institutional capacities of VOPEs and civil societies, strengthening individual evaluator capacity development, and creating intentional interlinkages between enabling environment, institutional, and individual capacities. To learn more about or become an active partner or task force member, please see the EvalIndigenous webpage. Direct contacts for EvalIndigenous include:
- Nicole Bowman in the USA (email@example.com)
- Larry Bremner in Canada (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Serge Eric YAKEU DJIAM in Africa (email@example.com)
- Debbie Goodwin in New Zealand (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Besides our live streamed traditional and academic Indigenous evaluation members presentations from the Ma te Rae conference, you may also follow EvalIndigenous on social media and learn what inspires our work by checking out the links below:
- United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Native Voices via the EvalIndigenous You Tube page
- UNESCO’s webpage for the International Year of Indigenous Languages
Check out these other photos from the Ma te Rae conference.
An Update from the Theories in Evaluation Topical Interest Group
From Randy Davies, Alisa Balestra, and Natalie De Sole, Theories in Evaluation leadership
What drives your evaluative work? Do you conduct evaluation as you learned to do in a classroom or the field, or do you practice evaluation based on a set of beliefs about how it should be done? Whatever your approach, understanding why and how you conduct evaluative work is a key question to the work of the Theories in Evaluation Topical Interest Group (TIG).
In particular, the Theories in Evaluation TIG aims to bridge theory with praxis, to understand what shapes our practice but also how our practice drives conversations critical to how and why we conduct evaluative work as we do. As we prepare for Evaluation 2019, AEA’s annual conference, the Theories in Evaluation TIG invites AEA members to consider their foundational or underlying beliefs about evaluation—from where they learned such beliefs, and how these beliefs translate into their evaluative practice.
Furthermore, members are invited to consider how to build or how they build this bridge between what drives their practice and practice itself. Consider these questions:
- Are students and/or clients integral to this process?
- What role does feedback play in building this bridge?
- What are the barriers to building this bridge, or what can impede its progress?
- Does it matter if we practice evaluation or hold a set of principles in conducting our work without praxis being informed by specific theories?
- What if these theories cannot be named or do not exist?
As there are disagreements about how to conduct evaluation, or best practices in evaluation, the question of why and how we do what we do, as well as how our work shapes what we know or think about evaluation, becomes critical as we consider the future of evaluation. This year’s conference theme asks us to consider these questions, and to begin to understand how, in addressing society’s questions, applying methods and practices in the face of society’s many challenges, leaving no one behind, and/or leading through evaluation, we practice evaluation in ways that are informed, responsive, and culturally and linguistically competent.
Can we address society’s questions without also involving its members? Can we apply methods and practices to society’s challenges if they are not well informed? Who or what should do the informing? And how do we not leave anyone behind? Perhaps more than ever, as we consider our role as evaluators in a changing world, the question of how to build bridges between institutional knowledge and community practice, between what drives our work and the work itself, and the tools and people power needed to accomplish this bridge building demands answering.
For the Theories in Evaluation TIG, these are questions we’ve long considered. Join us in the conversation as you consider a proposal submission to this year’s conference. We welcome your ideas and feedback, and we look forward to engaging in productive dialogue about how and why in Minnesota in 2019.
An Update from the Internal Evaluation Topical Interest Group
From Annie Gleason, Boris Volkov, Dana McCurdy, Danelle Marable, Jillian Papa, and Rhonda Williams
Internal evaluators are a diverse group – we work in the public sector, within nonprofits, foundations and academic institutions. Some of us are part of a team, and others are singular evaluators within their respective organizations.
While our contexts and roles may differ, we often share broad objectives. From outside the field, many view the role of internal evaluators as simply monitoring data and reporting for compliance. In reality, the expectations for our work have expanded greatly over the years. Yes, we track progress toward impact, but we also shoulder responsibility for developing a culture of learning within our institutions, connecting insights within individual programs to inform broader organizational learning and strategy, and preparing our programs and initiatives for more rigorous evaluation that will eventually further knowledge in the field.
Given these enhanced expectations, it’s important for us to feel we’re part of a community that promotes knowledge sharing. As leaders of the Internal Evaluation (IE) Topical Interest Group (TIG), we meet periodically to discuss initiatives and priorities for the year. This year we’ve committed to developing a more robust library of resources for new and continuing internal evaluators. This includes the following.
- As a resource for those who are just entering the field, our aim is to develop a list of “Top 10 Resources for New Internal Evaluators,” which will span topics from logic model development, to communicating about data, to meeting facilitation. Are you a seasoned evaluator with useful resources to share for those who are new to the field? Please share them with us!
- We’re also pulling together resources for continuing internal evaluators, which will focus more on emerging trends and innovative approaches.
We envision our website as a hub for sharing resources and connecting with others in the field, but we also welcome your feedback about what else you’d like to see there.
In addition to our resource library, the IE TIG regularly does the following:
- Develop and sponsor engaging AEA conference sessions related to internal evaluation. We’ve received submissions for AEA 2019 and are looking forward to reviewing!
- Promote opportunities for internal evaluators to network with one another. At our TIG business meeting last fall, we did an activity to better understand our group membership and their needs. We used insights from this activity to inform priorities for the year, which include the resource library and, as a longer-term project, a discussion board or other forum to facilitate more communication between members.
- Share best practices and emerging trends in the field via webinars, newsletters and the website. Recognizing that many internal evaluators have been struggling to find an optimal option to track multiple program customers and activities within their organizations, in January, the IE TIG co-sponsored a webinar focused on considerations for selecting a client management and outcome tracking system for monitoring and evaluation. Do you have additional ideas for webinars? Let us know!
If you have thoughts, questions, resources to share, please reach out to anyone on the IE TIG’s leadership team, listed below – we’re looking forward to connecting with you! If you’re not already a member, we encourage you to join our TIG and help us expand the network and form connections as internal evaluators across the world.
IE TIG Co-Chair
IE TIG Co-Chair
IE TIG Program Co-Chair
IE TIG Program Co-Chair
IE TIG Program Co-Chair
IE TIG Communication Coordinator
Submit an Article or Update for an Upcoming AEA Newsletter
The Importance of Identifying Your Presentation Message
From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator
Imagine: You wrote an insightful paper. Your article was published in a journal. You just completed an innovative study. You’re in the midst of a really interesting evaluation. And now, you’ve submitted a proposal to AEA to present your work at Evaluation 2019.
For the last two months, this newsletter column was dedicated to tips for conference proposal writing, with tips repeated in an article for AEA365. The feedback was positive and almost exclusively focused on this bonus tip:
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.
We’re All in Sales
The advice above seemed to resonate with many AEA conference-goers. What this audience is simply asking is to hear a presenter’s message, rather than details about the program that don’t feel relevant to them. As a presenter, you can think about it this way: What are you selling to the audience?
Wait, what? You’re probably thinking, “I’m not selling anything. I’m just sharing my work. I’m sharing what we learned conducting this evaluation.”
The thing is, you are selling something. In To Sell is Human, author Daniel Pink argues we are all in sales, no matter what we actually do. In a conference presentation, you’re selling the idea that your approach to the evaluation is unique, that lessons learned from interacting with stakeholders will inform your audience’s strategy, or that the new tool you experimented with might work for others.
What do salespeople do to convince people to buy their product? They focus on one key message consumers need to hear to either make a purchase decision or engage in further information gathering about the product. That’s what you’re doing for your audience – persuading them to try a new approach, strategy, or tool, or invest time in learning more about it later. You’re not selling the program.
Craft Your Message
It’s challenging to craft a concise message for short presentations, especially when you have only 15 minutes to share your work. Want a neat trick to catalyze your thinking? Watch TV commercials. Put down the remote, don’t change the channel or fast forward, and get your snacks ready before a show starts. Then sit down, pay attention, and take notes. How do advertisers with only 15 or 30 seconds to sell you something do it? They can’t tell you everything about the product. What message have they chosen to share, and what details are left out?
Free Tools for the Taking!
Check out our p2i Presentation Tools and Guidelines page for resources to help you craft your presentation message. Use them to isolate talking points needed to convey your message, and strip away extraneous details your audience will not need (i.e., often these are details about the program itself) to understand that message.
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 email@example.com and let’s talk! I’m happy to help, offer guidance, or collaborate on any of these.
Learn About the AEA Governance System in April
The AEA Board of Directors would like the opportunity to engage more with AEA members and discuss a variety of strategic and visionary topics with the membership. The virtual Town Hall approach allows a regular opportunity to pose strategic questions and topics to the membership for input.
The Board will use the Zoom meeting platform with a Q&A feature for receiving and addressing questions. The following session topics and guest facilitators have been confirmed.
AEA Town Hall: Understanding the AEA Governance System
Thursday, April 18, 2019, at 1 p.m. ET
Join AEA President Tessie Catsambas and AEA Executive Director Anisha Lewis as we share insights on the inner-workings and benefits of the AEA governance system. The AEA Board of Directors transitioned from executive board leadership to the policy-based governance model that was mandated by the rapid growth of the AEA. They will discuss the smart adaptation of policy-based governance to fit the AEA requirements, and what you can expect from it as members.
Tessie and Anisha intend to dispel common misconceptions, and invite you to come prepared with questions to ask. Your questions will help increase clarity and common understanding, and at the same time, help AEA keep improving our governance system. Register here.
Missed a previous Town Hall meeting? Access past AEA Town Hall recordings here.
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.
Save the Date for These Upcoming Live eStudies
eStudy 099: Utilizing a Racial Equity Lens in Strategic Engagement and Evaluation
Presenters: LaShaune Johnson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Creighton University; Mindelyn Anderson, Ph.D., Program Director, American University
Dates: May 7, 12-1:30 pm ET; May 14, 12-1:30 pm ET; May 21, 12-1:30 pm ET; May 28, 12-1:30 pm ET
The field of evaluation is being challenged to move from the traditional role of evaluation, and its perceived role of objectivity, to a process that considers who is being evaluated and who is conducting the evaluation. Over four years ago, Public Policy Associates, Inc. (PPA), under the guidance of former PPA President Dr. Paul Elam and Consultant Willard Walker, worked to develop useful frameworks, tools, and approaches for evaluators to include in their toolkits to focus on the ways that race and culture influence an evaluation process. This practice resulted in the development of a framework for conducting evaluation using a racial equity lens. This webinar series focuses on the practical use of a racial equity lens when conducting evaluation. The framework argues that culture and race are important considerations when conducting an evaluation because there are both critical and substantive nuances that are missed, ignored, and/or misinterpreted when an evaluator is not aware of the culture of those being evaluated and does not adopt a racial equity approach to the work. Learn more here.
eStudy 100: Principles-Focused Evaluation
Presenters: Michael Quinn Patton, Founder and Director, Utilization-Focused Evaluation
Dates: May 3, 12-1:30 pm ET; May 9, 12-1:30 pm ET; May 23, 12-1:30pm ET; May 30, 12-1:30 pm ET
Principles-focused evaluation makes principles the focus of evaluation. Three questions are the focus of evaluation: (1) To what extent and in what ways are the principles meaningful to those meant to be guided by the principles? (2) If meaningful, to what extent and in what ways are the principles adhered to? (3) If adhered to, to what extent and in what ways do principles guide results? The webinar will present and explain the GUIDE approach to developing and evaluating principles. GUIDE calls for principles to be directive, useful, inspiring, adaptable to contexts, and evaluable. Examples of principles-focused evaluations will be shared. Learn more here.
Events for AEA Members, Suggested by AEA Members
In this section, we spotlight events that may be of interest to AEA members and the evaluation community, as suggested by fellow AEA members. Please note these events are not sponsored by the AEA. If you would like to suggest an upcoming event for consideration, please email Kristin Fields, AEA newsletter editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[WEBINAR] Blended Finance Evaluation: Governance and Methodological Challenges
Friday, April 5, 2019, 14:00-15.00 Central European Time (9-10 am Eastern Time)
There is an urgent need to better understand the role that the use of blended finance in development co-operation can play in achieving the SDGs. By adopting the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) blended finance principles for unlocking commercial finance for the SDGs, members of the Development Assistance Committee renewed their commitment to transparency and results.
With a view to providing further policy guidance on the implementation of such Principles, experts from the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate, the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), the German Institute for Development Evaluation (DEval) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, have teamed up to explore the practical implications of monitoring and evaluating blended finance. As part of the ongoing consultation, the OECD is pleased to invite you to read the OECD working paper and register for the webinar here.
[WEBINAR] Optimizing Health Literacy Programs: Innovative Strategies from the Field
Tuesday, April 9, 2019, 1-2:15 p.m. Central Daylight Time
Join Community Science on Tuesday, April 9 for a free webinar that provides practical strategies to improve the effectiveness of health literacy programs. In this second webinar in their health literacy series, participants will hear directly from implementers across the country on innovative strategies to address challenges with implementing health literacy programs in underserved communities. This interactive webinar will demonstrate how song and video are used to communicate key health messages, and how project funds can be maximized by using local newspapers to communicate prevention messages to difficult-to-access rural and urban communities. Learn more and register for the webinar here.
Looking for Energy Evaluators in Asia Pacific Region
A new organization has been created to help develop a community of evaluators of energy programs in the Asia Pacific Region. The name of the organization is Energy Evaluation Asia Pacific (EEAP). Visit the organization’s website, energy-evaluation.org, to learn its purpose and key people who are helping to support EEAP’s efforts. Additionally, the second EEAP Conference will be held in Bangkok in October of this year. The call for abstracts is still open here.
For those AEA members interested in energy efficiency and renewable energy and in EEAP’s efforts and would like to be added to EEAP’s mailing list to receive more information, visit: https://expertevents.eventsair.com/eeap/eoi/Site/Register
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.