Around the Evaluation World in 40 Days
From Kathy Newcomer, AEA President
In line with our 2017 annual conference theme, I spent the last six weeks learning from others through my engagement with our members, the broader evaluation community, and current and potential consumers of evaluation! Below I provide some learning takeaways from my connections with evaluators and aspiring evaluators across the globe.
AEA President Kathy Newcomer (center) with the
Evaluation Office of the Central American Development Bank
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Around the Evaluation World in 40 Days
From Uganda with Love – At the AfrEA Conference, in late March, I learned more from many South-South interchanges about how to develop or adapt measurement and evaluation methods to take into account the multi-faceted and multi-stakeholder complex environment there. Download the AfrEA ReportAGE Conference Edition 2017.
More than Gambling on Our Future – I was pleased to participate in the Eastern Evaluation Research Society's (EERS) 40th Anniversary Conference in early April, joining more than one hundred evaluators as we discussed "Evaluation Looking Forward" in Absecon, New Jersey, just outside Atlantic City. Based on my experience, I am encouraged by learning about the opportunities AEA's local affiliates provide that energize and develop communities of evaluators across the country.
Launching Forum – In mid-April, I spoke with and learned from colleagues at the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), the United Nations Development Program in Costa Rica, the Master in Program Evaluation from University of Costa Rica, the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Evaluation (RELAC, in Spanish) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture on the occasion of my trip to Honduras and Costa Rica for the launch of Forum: the first digital journal on program evaluation in Central America. See the Eval Forum launch photo gallery here.
Forum Founder Ana Luisa Guzmán and AEA President Kathy Newcomer
Home of the 2016 World Nomad Games – In late April, I participated in the Third Global Evaluation Forum (GEF3) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The theme of the Third Global Evaluation Forum was “Transforming the world through evaluation: engagement and partnership for the better world.” More than 150 countries were represented at the meeting. Watch a recording of the entire conference on EvalYouth's YouTube channel.
AEA member Josette Arevalo Gross won an award at the global forum for her contributions as a young and emerging evaluator. Her work organizing the first virtual EvalYouth conferences, and her work in the Latin American region as co-chair of EvalYouth LAC were recognized.
AEA President Kathy Newcomer and AEA member Josette Arevalo Gross
It was an incredible experience, and to quote my fellow attendee, Nicky Bowman, “I was amazed by the level of intimacy, passion for evaluation, and humanity for our work in a global context. The connections and relationships were built quickly because of the wonderful design of GEF3 and preparations beforehand, and I’ve got no doubt that the momentum at GEF3 will continue and be carried forward on a regular basis in our evaluation work.” I agree totally, Nicky! For more, see the EvalPartners Global Evaluation Forum page.
Following the Geese Home – In early May, I was privileged to participate in the Canadian Evaluation Society’s annual conference in Vancouver, “ Facing Forward: Innovation, Action, and Reflection.” While in attendance, I learned about innovative evaluation practices, but I also learned much about the progress of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission—which was truly breathtaking. For more information, visit Wikipedia's page on Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
From left: CES Executive Director Rebecca Mellett,
AEA President Kathy Newcomer and CES President Harry Cummings
My learning from across the world have been humbling and eye-opening—thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent AEA!
Please remember that my door and ears are always open, and I welcome engaging with our members to learn how AEA can better serve us and promote evaluation practice! We have the capacity and skills to help society learn from evaluation. Please help me foster membership engagement—contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or AEA2017president@aea.org.
My warmest regards,
Meet the New Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Fellows!
From Zachary Grays, AEA Headquarters
AEA is proud to announce and welcome the newly selected fellows for the 16th MSI fellowship. With an incredibly competitive pool of applicants, it goes without saying that narrowing down the impressive selected five fellows was difficult.
Meet the 2016-2017 MSI fellows!
You can get to know the newest fellows and read more on their background here! Please take the opportunity to introduce yourselves to them during Summer Evaluation Institute 2017 and Evaluation 2017 in Washington, D.C.
AEA would also like to thank Dr. Art Hernandez, MSI program director, for his continued leadership and exemplary guidance of the MSI program. Visit the AEA website to learn more about the MSI program and this year’s fellows. The call for 2017-2018 fellowship applications will be made in mid-July, so stay tuned!
Happy 30th Birthday, PowerPoint!
From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator
Our little presentation tool is all grown up! Aw, they're so cute when they're young. But hey, I certainly don't miss the old days of Microsoft PowerPoint when presentation design options were new, untested, and quite limited.
Just as it is for us when we are in our formative years having those key life experiences that shape who we become later in life, so it is for PowerPoint. Installed on more than one billion computers worldwide (yes, one billion), our favorite software wasn’t born with all the wonderful features we've come to know and love.
In the early 1990s, when PowerPoint was still quite young, the fledgling software acquired new drawing tools, and developed the capacity to support True Type fonts, transitions, build effects, and new graph types. In the awkward teen years, we saw PowerPoint’s acne clear to reveal that tri-pane view we have come to love that shows our slides, the outline, and notes all on the same screen.
In its early 20s, PowerPoint learned to play nicely with others, allowing us to collaborate so that we can co-author presentations. We also gained the ability to remotely deliver a presentation and export presentations as videos. In 2013, PowerPoint became even more sophisticated with a start screen (instead of just a blank new slideshow), opportunities for collaborative discussion with threaded comments, and updated Presenter View options.
And now at 30, our darling PowerPoint is demonstrating its capacity for lifelong learning as it now features Morph Transition—a new way to add movement to slide objects, and Zoom—a new way to move to different slides and sections of your presentation while you’re presenting.
“Every design element,” Gaskin gushes, “had a default for every property that should produce a beautiful presentation (in a current style for business presentations), but every property could also be edited freely. And the whole set of defaults for a presentation could be easily changed by the user to be anything at all.” Proud papa Gaskin has even written a book about his progeny, cleverly titled, Sweating Bullets: Notes About Inventing PowerPoint.
Our favorite presentation tool has survived and thrived as we, its loyal users, have learned new and better ways to take advantage of its flexibility to produce potent presentations.
President's FY 2018 Budget Evaluation Guidance
From Cheryl Oros, consultant to the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF)
Every year, the president sends Congress a proposed budget for the next fiscal year (FY). The FY 2018 budget contains ongoing efforts to better integrate evidence and evaluation in federal budget, management, operational, and policy decisions. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) notes there has been meaningful progress in recent years toward building and using evidence for better government, and a bipartisan consensus has emerged regarding the need for further progress. This is especially the case when considering the potential for using existing administrative data for research and evaluation.
Chapter 6, "Building and Using Evidence to Improve Government Effectiveness," of the FY 2018 Budget Analytical Perspectives (pp. 55-58) discusses several factors that can enhance the development and use of evidence. In accordance with AEA recommendations in the Roadmap for a More Effective Government, budget guidance urges federal agencies to:
- Build a portfolio of evidence by relying not on a single study, but a broad array of evidence (impact and implementation evaluation, performance monitoring and measurement, statistics and other forms of research and analysis);
- Develop a learning agenda by identifying evaluation questions first, then identifying the most appropriate methods to answer them;
- Build an evidence infrastructure by encouraging independent evaluation offices to conduct rigorous, independent evaluations, including hiring and supporting appropriately skilled staff (OMB cites report GAO-15-25);
- Make better use of administrative data to build evidence, including sharing data across agencies; and
- Use a portfolio of evidence in decision-making.
OMB notes, "With a strong evidence infrastructure and culture agencies constantly (1) ask and answer questions that help them find, implement, and sustain effective programs and practices, (2) identify and improve or eliminate ineffective programs and practices, (3) test promising programs and practices to see if they are effective and can be replicated, and (4) find lower cost ways to achieve better results." It also states: "The credible use of evidence in decision-making requires an understanding of what conclusions can and, equally important, cannot be drawn from the information. Evidence should be rigorous, relevant, transparent, independent, and generated in an ethical manner."
For those of you working in or with a federal agency, we are interested in hearing from you about related evaluation and data efforts, including those stimulated by earlier OMB guidance. To send me your thoughts or set up a discussion, please contact me at EvaluationPolicy@eval.org.
Recent Notable International Events
From Cindy Clapp-Wincek
Two notable international events have taken place in the last couple of months. The African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) held their 8th Conference in Uganda during the last week of March, and EvalPartners held the Third Global Evaluation Forum in Kyrgyzstan during the last week of April. These are two of the many international evaluation networks that work on building capacity for evaluation around the world—the same way that AEA has done in the U.S. for decades. (See the April 2017 AEA Newsletter article by Donna Podems on the AfrEA conference.)
The Global Evaluation Forum – Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia
The ambitious theme of the Third Global Evaluation Forum was “Transforming the world through evaluation: engagement and partnership for the better world we want.” The Forum wasn’t a classic conference with papers and presentations but a series of discussion groups by people actively involved in building evaluation capacity through evaluation associations such as AEA and through a series of networks. Much of the Forum was organized around EvalPartners’ networks; there are four networks with active memberships that include representatives from AEA: EvalSDGs, EvalGender+, EvalIndigenous, and EvalYouth.
There is also an active network called the Global Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluation, in which members of Congress (as we would say in the U.S.) play an active role in supporting and encouraging evaluation in their countries. Information about the networks can be found on the EvalPartners’ website and initiative websites, including EvalSDGs, EvalGender+, EvalIndigenous, EvalYouth, and Parliamentarians Forum for Development Evaluation.
AEA was represented at the Global Evaluation Forum by President Kathy Newcomer, Nicky Bowman, AEA’s representative to the EvalIndigenous network, Svetlana Negroustoueva, AEA’s representative and co-chair of EvalGender+, and Donna Podems, a former AEA Board member invited to the forum as a Global Thought Leader. Also attending from AEA was Tessie Catsambas, who calls herself a “founding godmother” of EvalPartners. I attended as the AEA’s Representative to IOCE and EvalPartners.
AEA’s representatives at the Third Global Evaluation Forum.
From left: Cindy Clapp-Wincek, Tessie Catsambas, Kathy Newcomer, Nicky Bowman, and Donna Podems.
Not pictured: Svetlana Negroustoueva
Borrowing from the remarks that Donna presented as a Thought Leader, as well as some practical issues discussed, the Forum participants wrestled with issues such as:
- How do we value programs or policies and who decides how they are valued?
- How are we, as evaluators, engaging with socially constructed challenges and barriers that are very real to our field? (Think “alternative facts.”)
- How do we ensure that evaluation makes sense and is meaningful to non-evaluators?
- How can we use evaluation to enhance equity in the world?
- Who are the partners that we can work with to build evaluation capacity? (e.g., Will private sector entities be active partners?)
- What other ways can we work to support the development of evaluation capacity worldwide?
All of us from AEA found the conference an exciting and stimulating opportunity to discuss how to best build evaluation capacity around the world. We felt so welcomed by the representatives from Kyrgyzstan and particularly the Kyrgyz Parliament, which played an active role in planning and conducting the Forum. Each network invites the participation of AEA members. For more information on how to get involved, visit the websites above or contact me at email@example.com.
From left: Svetlana Negroustoueva, Donna Podems, and Nicky Bowman
at the Closing Session at the Kyrgyz Parliament
On a final note: In the AEA March Newsletter, I said that AEA was the oldest professional association of evaluators. I was corrected by my Canadian colleagues that the Canadian Evaluation Society was incorporated in 1981, when, indeed, AEA resulted in 1986 from the merger of the Evaluation Research Society (formed in 1979) and the Evaluation Network (formed in 1982).
Who Are EvalPartners and IOCE?
EvalPartners is a coalition between the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE) (http://ioce.net/)and a variety of UN agencies, multilateral and bilateral donors, and other agencies that aim to enhance the capacities of Voluntary Organizations for Professional Evaluation (VOPE) and other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to influence policy makers, public opinion, and other key stakeholders so that public policies are based on evidence, and incorporate considerations of equity and effectiveness.
The IOCE was created in 2003 to support the creation and development of evaluation associations around the world. More recently, the term VOPE was developed to be inclusive of formal associations/societies and informal networks, whether at the local, national, regional, or international level. Each region of the world has a regional VOPE that organizes conferences and works with IOCE and EvalPartners to actively support national VOPEs and promote evaluation in countries in their region. Globally, there are currently 101 VOPEs that have registered on the IOCE database. There are an additional 90 national VOPEs that have been established but have not registered on the IOCE database.
Together, IOCE and EvalPartners provide multiple types of support to them, including:
- A toolkit to help VOPEs form and develop;
- An advocacy strategy to help VOPEs advocate for good evaluation policies;
- An eLearning program;
- EvalAgenda2020, a long-term global vision for evaluation; and
- Grants to support peer-to-peer learning efforts between VOPEs around the world. To date, more than 46 VOPEs have benefited by one or more P2P grants.
Meet Jennifer Heettner
Name: Jennifer Heettner
Affiliation: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Degrees: Master of Public Policy, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University
Years in the Evaluation Field: 10
Joined AEA: 2013
Why do you belong to AEA? Professional development and engagement with the evaluation community.
What’s the most memorable or meaningful evaluation you have been a part of? I once conducted an internal evaluation of a sensitive program with very complicated organizational dynamics. It taught me a great deal about managing evaluation processes and expectations, including the importance of ongoing planning and communication with all stakeholders.
What advice would you give to those new to the field?
Evaluation is an art and a science. It is important to remember the value and nuance that the “art” brings to our field. It is the art that must come in throughout our engagement—in our creativity, open-mindedness, and compassion. Evaluation is a very human process, one in which we try to hold up a mirror—to processes, programs, and organizations—all implemented by individuals who often care very deeply about their work. It requires recipients of findings to be open about programs they pour their hearts and souls into. As professional evaluators, we must bring mindfulness to our craft in order to ensure our messages can be received openly and in the spirit in which they are offered—to enhance interventions for maximal impact.
AEA Supports March for Science and a Sustainable Future
From Dr. Mirele B. Goldsmith, AEA Sustainability Working Group
This year on Earth Day, 50,000 people took to the streets in Washington D.C. to demonstrate on behalf of “evidence based decision-making” in the March for Science. Scientists marched out of concern about threats to funding for NIH and universities for medical research. But mostly they were galvanized by politicians’ dismissal of the scientific consensus about the cause and solutions to the climate crisis.
March for Science in Washington, D.C. (photo by Riccardo Savi)
The board of AEA passed a resolution in support of the March for Science, joining associations as diverse as the National Center for Science Education, the American Geophysical Union, and the National Network of Depression Centers. The resolution was written by the AEA Sustainability Working Group at the initiative of member Dr. Stephen C. Maack, and then reviewed by the AEA Management Team. The mission of the March for Science states, "The application of science to policy is not a partisan issue." The AEA resolution reinforces AEA values and aligns with the mission of the March.
The resolution reads:
The AEA Board and Evaluation Policy Task Force join our sister organizations in supporting the March for Science as it is in line with our mission and values and offer the following resolution:
Whereas: Evaluation is an essential function of government. It can enhance oversight and accountability of federal programs, improve the effectiveness and efficiency of services, assess which programs or policies are working and which are not, and provide critical information needed for making difficult decisions about them.
Therefore: The American Evaluation Association supports the concerns, principles and goals of the March for Science on April 22, 2017.
As the effects of climate change on public health, food security, gender inequities, and conflict are better recognized, evaluators are increasingly being called upon to consider these effects on programs. Several AEA leaders have challenged us to consider the implications of climate change for evaluation. Dr. Beverly Parsons focused on the theme of Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future as 2014 president of AEA. She emphasized that evaluation is fundamental to a sustainable, equitable future. Dr. Michael Quinn Patton has challenged us to see ourselves as blue marble evaluators—reminded by the classic photo of Earth from space that we share a small, beautiful, and shockingly fragile planet.
Under the direction of the Sustainability Working Group, AEA underwent a green audit in 2015 and is continuing to implement changes to make its day-to-day activities more environmentally responsible. Now the focus is on identifying ways that AEA can support evaluators in fulfilling the challenge posed by Patton. The Sustainability Working Group, chaired by Dr. Heather Dantzker, is launching a Listening Tour to solicit input from AEA members. If you are interested in participating in this initiative, please contact Heather Dantzker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The organizers of the March for Science stressed that the purpose of the March was to celebrate science and its contributions. Evaluators also have much to celebrate and to contribute to a sustainable future.
Join a Topical Interest Group (TIG)
Joining a Topical Interest Group (TIG) is an easy way to enhance your experience as an AEA member by allowing you to gain exposure and valuable experience in specified disciplines within the profession of evaluation.
As an AEA member, you are allowed to join up to five of the 56 Topical Interest Groups. According to the 2015 AEA membership survey and the member exit surveys from non-renewing members, 75 percent of respondents reported TIGs to be a useful resource, yet 70 percent of members who do not renew their membership never joined a TIG and, therefore, miss out on this valuable benefit.
Joining a TIG is easy and can be managed here. Simply log in and join the TIGs that best suit your interests. To join a TIG, click 'Join' next to the TIG name. Your request will be queued for approval to ensure you have not exceeded your limit of five. You will be notified when your request is approved. To remove yourself from a TIG to which you are already assigned, click 'Member' next to the TIG name below, and then click the 'Leave Community' button on the following page.