From Kathy Newcomer, AEA President
As my year as AEA president comes to an end, I take special pride that we took some steps forward in shedding a light on how evaluation can draw attention to the role of Race and Class in our society. I am extremely grateful to Melvin Hall for leading our public-facing work through organizing our AEA Dialogues on Race and Class – and the plenary on the same, plus our inward looking efforts through leading our Membership Engagement Task Force- along with Robin Miller. We all have much to do, but we have made some progress.
The current volatile and jarring environment in our country reminds me daily of how important it is for us to live by and promote the values underlying our association. I was out of the country when the events at Charlottesville occurred, and then went to participate in the Australasian Evaluation Society’s annual conference where I confronted many questions about the divisions in our country. I find our current situation as humbling as it is horrifying. While the Australians have not made as much progress as the Canadians in terms of Truth, Reconciliation and Healing with their Aboriginal people, they have taken more steps than the U.S. I feel very strongly that our country needs to takes clear and public steps forward –perhaps like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada - to address the inequities that persist due to the actions taken by both our government and many of our ancestors. We all have a role to play, and we just need to keep moving forward to find our voice. I know I am.
On a more positive note, I am absolutely delighted with the respect given evaluation in the final report of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policy and want to thank our AEA Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) for their input into the deliberations and report. Under George Grob's leadership with Cheryl Oros' support, our EPTF ensured AEA provided useful and relevant input. AEA was covering the Commission closely, as strong evaluation policy is so very critical – now more than ever.
I want to offer special recognition to AEA's EPTF member and Washington Evaluators' President Nick Hart who served as the Policy Director of the Commission and who has a very good understanding of the field of evaluation which is reflected in the final report. The emphasis placed upon the importance of an evidence-building community, and the need for leadership and strengthened evidence-building capacity in the federal government are especially significant for us all. A presidential strand session at our annual conference will be devoted to the Commission’s findings and recommendations with the Commission’s chair and co-chair speaking, and this session will be live-streamed (pro bono) for anyone who will not be in attendance at the conference.
And relatedly, our AEA Competencies Task Force has made great strides. The draft competencies they have drafted (on AEA’s website) provide a sound basis for professionalization of our profession. The Task Force has taken an extremely deliberative and inclusive approach to validate the competencies, which will be culminating with the survey they recently conducted of our membership. I take great pride in the comprehensive and careful approach to professionalization our Competencies Task Force has taken under the wise leadership of Jean King! Thank you!
In addition, Beverly Parsons is leading a Task Force to review and refresh our Guiding Principles that is also taking an extremely deliberative and inclusive approach - again exemplifying the dedication and commitment of our many AEA members who work strategically and consistently on behalf of us all to strengthen and support our profession! They are currently conducting a survey of our entire membership, so please respond to their survey!
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn more about our AEA talents! Please see pictures of me with leaders of the Atlanta and Chicago Affiliates from my visits to them this June (pictured below). Our affiliate leaders, like those working on Task Forces, devote much time to support our profession and I am delighted that they will be holding an Affiliate Workshop in connection with our annual conference!
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! Please help me foster membership engagement - contact me at email@example.com or AEA2017president@aea.org
My warmest regards,
From Mirele B. Goldsmith, Environmental Sustainability Working Group
AEA members are committed individually and as a profession to AEA's Guiding Principle that we are responsible for taking into account the general and public welfare in the way we do our work. As we have been reminded by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, climate change is an increasing threat to the public welfare. There are many things evaluators can do in response to this threat, and the Environmental Sustainability Working Group has decided to start by addressing the AEA’s direct contribution to the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the atmosphere.
Air Travel Drives AEA Carbon Footprint
In preparation for this year’s conference, we are taking on air travel. As evaluators, it is important that AEA’s efforts to address climate change be evidence-based. We know that addressing member travel to conferences is a high impact strategy because we have the data. AEA’s Green Audit revealed that in 2015 AEA’s carbon footprint was 4,845 metric tons, or the equivalent of over 64 tanker trucks of gasoline. Almost all of those tons – 4,596 to be exact – are a result of air travel.
Air Travel and Climate Change
Air travel is a particularly worrisome contributor to climate change because it occurs high in the atmosphere. Airplanes burn a lot of fuel, resulting in carbon emissions, and release other pollutants including black carbon, nitrous oxide and sulphur oxide. And the amount of air travel is growing rapidly. In a destructive cycle, warmer temperatures also have a direct impact on air travel. It turns out that warmer air is thinner air, which diminishes lift, or the ability for planes to take off, which results in turbulence.
What You Can Do
Carbon offsetting is a way to ameliorate some of the impact of air travel, as well as be proactive in supporting other important efforts to address climate change. The AEA Environmental Sustainability Working Group recommends that you consider making a voluntary contribution through Native Energy, or a similar organization, to a project that will reduce or capture carbon, thus offsetting the carbon resulting from your travel. Click here to calculate the emissions associated with your trip and make a contribution. If you choose Native Energy, please enter “AEA” as your “Company” so we can track our impact. You can also help us spread the word and encourage others to participate by printing your emissions certificate and bringing it to the Working Group’s display table at the conference.
To have the most impact, consider how you can reduce the impact of your travel as much as possible. You can reduce by choosing a more energy efficient route (generally non-stop flights use less fuel), an airline that is more energy efficient, or choosing another mode of transportation to the conference.
Working Together as AEA Members
As evaluators we are well aware that change is complicated. We see the big picture and help people solve novel problems. Taking steps to reduce our own carbon footprint is just one piece of the puzzle. Understanding that our travel has an impact and making a commitment to take individual action is the first step. By this action we can begin to change social norms about acknowledging climate change and our responsibility to address it. By working together through AEA we can become part of the world-wide social movement that is working to address the inter-connected challenges of environmental, social, and economic sustainability.
Greetings from the Guiding Principles Task Force (GPTF)
The AEA Board has assembled the GPTF, chaired by Beverly Parsons, to review the existing version of the Guiding Principles, which provide ethical guidelines for evaluator conduct. The current principles were established in 1994 and some revisions were made in 2004. (See the AEA website for the principles, as well as a history of previous reviews and revisions.)
The GPTF values AEA membership input and expertise in our initial review phase. Please use the following two opportunities to offer your feedback during the review phase (Fall 2017):
- Complete the Guiding Principles survey between now and October 13
- Engage via the GPTF Listening Post session, Speak Out on AEA Guiding Principles (#2212) at Eval2017 being held on Saturday, November 11, at 10:15 a.m.
Check out the recording of our September 21 Coffee Break webinar to learn more about our work and overall timeline.
We look forward to hearing your voice!
In September 2017, the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking proposed a bipartisan strategy – approved unanimously by the Members of the Commission – for improving the quantity and quality of evidence generated to support decision-makers in government. As the Commission published its strategy, a new initiative concurrently launched at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC, to promote implementation of the Commission’s recommendations in months and years to come. Serving as the Commission’s policy and research director and now as the director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s new initiative, I’m excited about the enthusiasm in Washington for ensuring policymakers have access to relevant and useful information to guide their decisions. But we must carry this enthusiasm forward to action that can improve our field, the policies we study, and ultimately the lives of individuals in our communities.
Aligning Values with Action
The vast majority of my professional career in evaluation has focused on supporting the policies that enable evaluation to be generated and used in government. The Commission’s recommendations present a tremendous opportunity for the evaluation community. This is an opportunity to exhibit leadership and champion improvements in the availability of evidence, to ultimately improve how government’s policies and programs are designed and implemented.
As the conversation continues in coming months and years about how government can better generate and use evidence, the values articulated by AEA for evaluation are constructive guideposts. As AEA members, we value “excellence in evaluation practice” and “utilization of evaluation findings.” Each of these value statements can and should be embodied and encouraged by the policies that support evaluation in government. This is precisely the nature of my work.
An evaluation that doesn’t exist, can’t inform policymakers. I’m a proponent of recognizing and addressing the many institutional barriers to supply of evaluation. There are many barriers that exist today – laws, resources, will, leadership, organizational culture, political environment, program designs. The Commission’s report emphasizes three key barriers to generating evidence, including evaluation, in the United States: “unintentional limits on data access, inadequate privacy practices, and insufficient capacity to generate the amount of quality evidence needed to support policy decisions.” All of these barriers are solvable and can be transformed into enablers of evaluation.
The Opportunities Ahead
Changing expectations for senior leaders, planning for evaluation at the outset of a program or policy, and establishing appropriate incentives are all approaches to emphasize enabling evaluation in our institutions. How do we accomplish these approaches? The Commission specifically recommends that as we improve data access and privacy protections, capacity gaps can be partially addressed by establishing a Chief Evaluation Officer position within each Federal department and that learning agendas be developed to prioritize evaluation where the need is greatest. When implemented, these recommendations will help ensure that senior leaders are attuned to the needs of evaluation practice, supporting excellence, and that the capacity exists to encourage appropriate and responsible use of evaluation findings.
These recommendations aren’t impossible. The recommendations aren’t unrealistic. In fact, it’s just the opposite. They are on the horizon and likely to become the norm in coming years. But as we all seek to strengthen the evaluation field, improving our practice, and enabling the ability to make evidence available for decision-making, it’s important to remember that many of these changes will not happen overnight.
In my view, the Commission’s bipartisan recommendations mark a major milestone for our country for recognizing that government needs better information to guide policymaking, and that generating this evidence is really possible. I hope the evaluation community will join me in advocating for these improvements – consistent with our values – to seize the rare opportunity to vastly improve government’s capacity to support evaluation.
NICK HART, PH.D. is the Director of the Evidence-Based Policymaking Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center and the former Policy and Research Director for the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking. He is the 2017 President of Washington Evaluators and a member of the American Evaluation Association’s Evaluation Policy Task Force.
AEA Conference Policy-Relevant Sessions
From Cheryl Oros, Consultant to the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF)
Commission on Evidence-Based Policy Making
AEA co-sponsored a Discussion Forum on the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking Report on September 21 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Representatives of professional organizations met to discuss how they could support the recommendations of the Commission. The Commission’s report, released on September 7, can be found at www.cep.gov. It presented several recommendations aimed at Congress and the President for strengthening Federal evidence-building capacity across federal agencies for policymaking:
- Federal departments should identify or establish a Chief Evaluation Officer.
- Federal departments should develop multi-year learning agendas that support the generation and use of evidence.
- The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should coordinate the Federal government’s evidence-building activities across departments.
- Align administrative processes to support evi¬dence building, in particular by streamlining the approval processes for new data collections and using existing flexibilities in procurement policy.
- Ensure sufficient resources to support evi¬dence-building activities.
AEA National Conference
We are looking forward to joining with you at the AEA national conference in November to discuss evaluation policy and how AEA can advance evaluation capacity building. There will be several policy-relevant sessions of interest at the upcoming AEA Conference in Washington, D.C., in November which you may wish to attend, including the Evaluation Policy update and discussion session:
- Wednesday, November 8, 2017: 1:45 p.m. - 3:15 p.m., session 3352, Federal Evaluation Community of Learning. Join us in hearing from major evaluation office leaders on their successful initiatives in increasing evaluation capacity; from AEA, Washington Evaluators and FedEval leaders on what you can gain from membership in their organizations; and from the president of the Senior Executives Association. Join this opportunity to network with these leaders and your fellow evaluators to learn from and build the evaluation community of learning. Federal employees are welcomed free of charge to this first day of the conference in Washington, D.C.
- Wednesday, November 8, 2017: 4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m., session 3353, Federal Evaluation: Reflections by Naomi Goldstein, Administration for Children and Families, HHS.
- Thursday, November 9, 2017: 1:15 p.m. - 2 p.m., session 2588, Presidential Strand, Recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking
- Thursday, November 9, 2017: 3:15 p.m.-4:15 p.m., session 1207, Developing Policies for Foreign Aid
- Thursday, November 9, 2017: 4:30 p.m. - 5:15 p.m., session 3354, Federal Evaluation Policy: OMB Perspective
- Friday, November 10, 2017: 3:30 p.m. - 4:15 p.m., session 3284, AEA EPTF Update and Discussion Session
- Friday, November 10, 2017: 4:30 p.m. - 5:15 p.m., session 1150, Expert Lecture, Introduction to Evaluation and Policy
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at EvaluationPolicy@eval.org.
Introducing the 15th GEDI Cohort
From Zachary Grays, AEA Headquarters
2017 has been a year full of positive new changes for the Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI). New Program Directors, Dr. Rodney Hopson and Dr. Brandi Gilbert, were introduced to the program as we celebrated the 15th anniversary of this prestigious program. In a similar vain, American Evaluation Association and the GEDI Program Directors are pleased to introduce the 15th GEDI Cohort.
You can get to know the newest scholars and read more on their background here! Please take the opportunity to introduce yourselves to them during Evaluation 2017 in Washington, D.C, this November.
Mold Your Message and Design Your Delivery
From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator
We’re just weeks from Evaluation 2017. Is your presentation in progress? P2i is here to help with a wealth of resources for crafting your Message, preparing for Delivery, finessing your Design, and engaging your audience. In this article, we’ll tackle two key elements of a Potent Presentation: Message and Delivery.
Molding Your Message
Messaging is key. A well-delivered, beautifully designed presentation will fall flat without a compelling message. Simply put, Message is what you want your audience to remember about your presentation. What is most important for them to understand about your topic? What should they learn from your presentation? Start the path to crafting a moving message by watching our Message video on the P2i home page. Then, head over to our Presentation Tools and Guidelines page where you’ll find these tools:
- Dynamic Dozen Message document
- Messaging Model Handout
- Messaging Demo Slides
For additional help with your message, check out Garr Reynolds’ Organization & Preparation Tips, which include starting with the end in mind, knowing your audience, creating solid content, and keeping it simple, among other tips.
Designing Your Delivery
Delivery is critical. A well-conceived, carefully honed message will be lost with a lackluster delivery. How will you present your message so that your audience will be engaged during the presentation? How will you help them not only understand, but also remember your message long after you’ve exited the stage? You’ll find our helpful Delivery Glue video on the P2i home page, and the following tools on our Presentation Tools and Guidelines page:
- Delivery Glue Slides
- Delivery Glue Handout
- Dynamic Dozen Delivery
- Rundown Example
- Successful Presentations
- Rundown Template
For additional help with delivery, check out Garr Reynolds’ Top Ten Delivery Tips, which include how to show your passion, start strong, keep it short, and make eye contact, among others (including a few good technology tips to support delivery).
Step it up with a Story
Stories can enhance the message and delivery of virtually any type of presentation, even those based on research papers. Stories engage audiences and make presentations memorable. In Structure Your Presentation Like a Story, presentation guru Nancy Duarte claims “the most effective presenters use the same techniques as great storytellers.” Great storytellers are poised and practiced, as storytelling can be a challenging skill to learn. Fortunately, there is no shortage of advice on the web for those interested in developing and honing this craft. Here are a few articles to get you started:
- Improve Your Storytelling Presentation Skills and Get Your Ideas Adopted
- The Secret Weapon of the Most Successful Speakers
- 8 Classic storytelling techniques for engaging presentations
Food for Thought…
…the less energy people expend on performance, the more they expend on appearances to compensate. More often than not the energy they expend on seeming impressive makes their actual performance worse. — Paul Graham
Have question comment or idea to share about P2i? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk!
“Image Quilt” created from “presentation photos.” All photos labeled for reuse.
Call for Nominations: Editor-in-Chief, American Journal of Evaluation
From Robin L. Miller, Chair of the AEA Publications Portfolio Task Force
The American Journal of Evaluation is a leading resource for scholarship on evaluation theory, methods, and practice and is seeking an Editor-in-Chief to begin January 2019. The deadline to submit your application is Thursday, November 30, 2017.
About the Position: The Editor-in-Chief is responsible for the journal’s direction and mission, including soliciting articles, overseeing the peer-review process, making editorial decisions, and editing submissions in a timely manner. The Editor-in-Chief will appoint and effectively manage a diverse editorial board, team of editorial assistants, and editorial staff. She or he will collaborate with AEA and the journal’s publisher to maintain the journal’s longstanding excellence and increase its visibility, readership, impact, and relevance to evaluation.
About the Candidate: The Editor-in-Chief is typically a senior or mid-career evaluation scholar who possesses deep appreciation for the distinctive and diverse nature of evaluation’s theory, methods, and practice. The ideal candidate is an AEA member of at least 5 years and holds a doctorate in evaluation or related field. Successful candidates will have a demonstrated record of academic and evaluation accomplishments, including a record of peer-reviewed publications on evaluation, and will have experience with the editorial process as well as management or leadership experience. Due to the substantial time commitment, it is important that the institutional home of the applicant agrees to provide the applicant with needed accommodations to ordinary duties in order to fulfill the role as Editor-in-Chief.
About the Application and Selection Process: All applications must be submitted by Thursday, November 30, 2017 to AEA’s Executive Director, Denise Roosendaal at email@example.com. All applications must include the following:
- Cover letter addressing the applicant’s qualifications and evidence of institutional support from the applicant’s place of work to fulfill the role of Editor-in-Chief
- Curriculum Vita
- Three (3) references (names and contact information) who can speak to the applicant’s ability to perform required editorial tasks
Applications will be reviewed by the Board’s Publications and Portfolio Task Force and a selection will be made by the AEA’s Board of Directors in March 2018. The new editor will assume his or her responsibilities as Editor-in-Chief as of January 2019, with a six-month transition period between July-December 2018.
Please direct questions about the Editor-in-Chief position to Robin L. Miller, Chair of the AEA Publications Portfolio Task Force, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Executive Director Search
As has been reported in the President’s and ED’s column, AEA has undertaken a search for a full-time Executive Director. The job specifications are located on the website. After careful discussion and analysis, SmithBucklin has recommended Schaffer & Combs as the external executive search firm for the Executive Director Search. Members who know of someone with the requisite skills and experience can send them to this application link.
It is expected that the Search Committee will begin interviewing final candidates by the end of November and the successful candidate will begin in January 2018.
We encourage you to take advantage of the online learning opportunities we are offering in the month of October, including two 20-minute Coffee Break sessions. AEA's Environmental Sustainability Working Group will present a session on Tuesday, October 17. On Thursday, October 19, Lauren Lawson, AEA Education and Learning Services Manager, will present a Coffee Break on the Evaluation 2017 Mobile App. All coffee breaks take place from 2 p.m. ET to 2:20 p.m. ET. on their respective dates.
- Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 2 PM - 2:20 PM ET: Environmental Sustainability and Evaluation
- Environmental sustainability is concerned with the well-being of people and the planet. Given this focus, what are the connections between environmental sustainability and evaluation? Should evaluators consider incorporating a concern for environmental sustainability into their evaluation practices? Join members of AEA’s Environmental Sustainability Working Group to discuss these questions, find out about the group’s ongoing initiatives, and learn how you can contribute to this work.
- Thursday, October 19, 2017, 2 PM - 2:20 PM ET: Navigating the Evaluation 2017 Mobile App
- The Evaluation 2017 Mobile App will be launched in early October. This Coffee Break will review the app's features, provide tips and tricks for navigating the app, and will show you how to create your customized agenda for the conference. This Coffee Break will be recorded and posted on the Evaluation 2017 website for future reference.
More details and links to register are available on the AEA Coffee Break page.