“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln & Peter F. Drucker
I hope spring brings you health and happiness and much prosperity to all your evaluation efforts. The AEA Board finds itself this spring energized and engaged in a broad range of activities focused on improving the evaluation profession. It will be a time for serious self-reflection as we embark on a journey beginning at our May Board meeting to envision the AEA we want in the next 5 to 10 years.
AEA as an organization has grown rapidly – from approximately 3,000 members in 2003 to more than 7,000 members in 2015. This kind of rapid growth offers opportunities as well as challenges. The AEA Board is now committed to thinking strategically about the opportunities and challenges that face us over the next decade.
AEA’s leadership has evolved in the last few years from a hands-on approach to one of a more strategic nature. With the transition to a new management company complete, the leadership is now poised to think strategically about the nature and structure of AEA in order to pave the way for the organization’s next phase of development.
Over the past year, the board has reviewed and aligned the “ends goals” (AEA’s Board operates within a modified policy-based governance model). The process has involved rewriting the policy manual and reorganizing the ends goals. AEA also created a strategic plan that aligns the ends goals with operational and programming directions. Through this plan, the leadership identified three important priorities that will guide and direct the organization’s action over the next three years: professional development opportunities for evaluators, growth in the diversity of the membership, and collaboration with evaluation-related disciplines.
The board is now undertaking a process to examine (and possibly reimagine) its overall structure. One of the important aspects to AEA’s success can be found in the organization’s ability to feel small and intimate while encouraging healthy growth in the diversity of its membership. Many believe this small community feeling should be maintained in whatever structure is underlying the organization.
The AEA membership survey (open through May 5) is an important aspect to understanding how the membership views AEA’s offerings as well as understanding how AEA members operate within the field of evaluation. These views will be taken into account in this process.
The AEA Board appreciates all the work that has been done over the past five years by previous leaders to create the organizational stability we needed to think strategically about the future of AEA. We understand the importance of this process and that this kind of discussion should not be rushed or taken lightly. We are eager to hear from members who have thoughts about how to improve AEA and how to better structure and position it for a bright future. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share your thoughts as input for our discussion on May 30.
Warm spring wishes,
2015 AEA President
From Zachary Grays, AEA Headquarters
This March, AEA welcomed the very first Voluntary Organization for Professional Evaluators (VOPE) to participate in the AEA International Partnership Protocol. This program offers the opportunity for the American Evaluation Association, by means of its executive director, to support the strengthening of peer VOPEs through mutually beneficial partnerships. An initiative a few years in the making, the objective of the program is to strengthen the field of evaluation by strengthening the professional organizations and its practitioners. Through funds made available through the program, Tatiana Tretiakova, coordinator at the National Monitoring and Evaluation Network of the Kyrgyz Republic, and Alisher Nazirov, member of the Monitoring and Evaluation Community of Practice of Tajikistan, had the opportunity to make a presentation on the development of evaluation in the Central Asian region and meet with the wider staff of the Washington Evaluators to seek advice from their experience and discuss possible cooperation with their colleagues of the Central Asian Voluntary Organizations for Professional Evaluations. While a formal report of their experience will be made available for review, AEA took the opportunity to ask Tatiana and Alisher to recap their visit and share firsthand how they benefited from their trip.
1. What was the purpose of your trip to the United States and what knowledge did you hope to share, gain, and exchange in your work from this experience?
Tatiana: In the USA we wanted to find out (a) how the monitoring and evaluation system is organized at different levels (individual, local, state, national); (b) practical forms of interactions between government organizations, professional society, and academia in the evaluation field; (c) forms and methods of work of the Washington Evaluators (community of practice); and (d) how evaluators are trained and educated and how they build their evaluation capacity (the system of professional development of evaluators).
Alisher: [We wanted to] share information about the M&E Community of Practice of Tajikistan (MonEvCoP) and the state of the art in the area of evaluation in Tajikistan. In addition, we wanted to find out about the business experience of visiting agencies to enhance MonEvCoP and compare approaches and methods of evaluations conducted by the private and public institutions in the U.S. Lastly, we wanted to find out about the scholarship opportunities for Tajik students in the area of evaluation and exchange programs for tutors/professors.
2. Is there an existing project that these ideas are crucial to in your region?
Alisher: MonEvCoP was established in 2008 and operates as informal institutions. Evaluation is a comparatively new area for the Republic of Tajikistan, which gained independence in 1991 after the Collapse of the Soviet Union. Given the novelty of the area, the country lacks experts in the area of evaluation and there is no evaluation culture in place per se. This visit aimed at identifying opportunities for strengthening local expertise in the area of evaluation as well as how evaluation and monitoring can be institutionalized.
Tatiana: The National M&E Network of the Kyrgyz Republic actively interacts with the Government Office of the Kyrgyz Republic on promotion of evaluation and creation of evaluation systems in the country. We have certain ideas and visions on how the evaluation system can be organized in the Kyrgyz Republic at the national level and we needed to learn about others’ experience on how it can be organized at the country level.
In the fall of 2014 we studied the experience of South Africa and were glad to have this opportunity to learn about the U.S. experience, which is one of the most advanced in this area. It was important for us to meet with USAID and learn about the U.S. government’s vision for work in the region. Since we need to develop our professional evaluation network in the Kyrgyz Republic, it was important for us to learn about the Washington Evaluators and how successful professional organizations develop and overcome obstacles. As managers of the national evaluation network we wanted to gain firsthand experience with how similar networks are managed in the U.S.
3. What was the impact of your experience while visiting with the members of Washington Evaluators and presenting at George Washington University? How were these opportunities beneficial to the Central Asian Voluntary Organizations for Professional Evaluations? What did you learn/exchange during these meetings?
Alisher: We were honored to deliver a speech for evaluation professionals representing prestigious global institutions specialized in evaluation. The audience was interested in finding out about the evaluation experience in our region and we truly valued being part of a global community with the same agenda, views, and aspiration. We learned how VOPEs can benefit from collaborating with the agencies we visited and were able to identify opportunities for collaboration and exchange of information and expertise.
Tatiana: We realized that the U.S. professional evaluation community is interested in our region and we felt that many of the attendees were genuinely interested in how the M&E is being developed in the region. We saw a very welcoming environment, very responsive and interested in future cooperation.
We were pleasantly surprised by the close and active cooperation among evaluation professionals. All of the meetings were well prepared and showed professionalism, responsibility, and commitment to all organizations. Different organizations, such as GAO, shared very interesting experiences that could be applied to our region. Reflection of the discussions helped us realize where the actual demand for evaluation in Kyrgyz government could be located and what kind of support they might need. It became clear that Parliament should be the place for real demand for evaluation.
4. How do you intend to apply what you learned from your trip to your work?
Tatiana: We want to test and apply some work forms used by Washington Evaluators (WE happy hour, brown bag on social impact, thematic monthly meetings). We would like to build links with local academia – universities that should train future evaluators for professional evaluation companies and for civil service. We wanted to make a contribution to the establishment of an evaluation unit under the Parliament.
Alisher: We hope to finalize the mission report and share with the MonEvCoP of Tajikistan members. We also plan to launch a website of the MonEvCoP of Tajikistan and to keep in touch with the individual professionals and organizations we met in the U.S.
AEA would like to extend a special thank you to Donna Mertens, Brian Yoder, and The Washington Evaluators for their partnership in creating this experience for Alisher, Tatiana, and their colleagues. It was through their generous contributions that we were able to extend this extraordinary olive branch to our international colleagues.
Interested in participating in the International Partnership Protocol Program? Click here to learn more. The Partnership Program has three application submission deadlines throughout the year: March 31, July 31, and November 31. There are limited funds for this project, and awards are capped at $5,000 for any partnership. The funds do not involve outright grants or support for internal infrastructure items. Interested VOPEs may submit a proposal by the next deadline of July 31, 2015.
From left to right: David Bernstein, Denise Roosendaal, Tatiana Tretiakova, Alisher Nazirov, Donna Mertens
From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Iniative Coordinator
Happy spring and happy birthday to Potent Presentations! It’s been three years since the launch of the p2i initiative and its amazing assemblage of resources on message, design, and delivery, along with additional checklists and tools to support your ability to develop powerful presentations for conferences, keynotes, courses, professional development, and everyday evaluation practices.
You may notice a different face and name here this month. Yes, this is Sheila B. Robinson, taking over where Stephanie Evergreen, p2i founder and coordinator emeritus, left off.
You may recognize me from aea365 Tip-A-Day By and For Evaluators, where I’ve been lead curator of the blog for the last couple of years. Or perhaps you recognize me from my own evaluation-related blog at sheilabrobinson.com, where I also write about presentations.
As a huge fan of p2i, with a strong interest in presentations, I bring the perspective of a veteran educator and professional developer to the project. Last summer, I contributed the “Audience Engagement Strategy Book” to the p2i initiative and have since presented two Coffee Break Webinars and an eStudy on this topic.
Stephanie continues to be very active in the presentation space with Evergreen Data and the Rad Presenters Podcast, among other projects. She will continue to be connected to this initiative and, coming up in late summer, will be offering a virtual Slide Clinic and series of Coffee Break webinars. Stephanie will be the contact for the Slide Clinic, so if you’re interested, please email her at Stephanie@eval.org. Don’t worry! We’ll share all the details with you as these exciting events get closer!
Now is as good a time as ever to become familiar with the p2i tools and resources, to begin refreshing your memory on ones you’ve previously explored, or to dig into the website and find something new. Conference proposals have been submitted and are now in the capable hands of our cadre of TIGs and their reviewers. As you hold your breath for that acceptance email this summer, why not think positively and get yourself ready for your best presentation ever!
From Mike Hendricks, AEA Representative to the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), with contributions from Jim Rugh, EvalPartners Co-Coordinator
Many AEA members work internationally, and almost 20 percent of AEA members actually live outside the U.S., so it’s a little unfair to single out just a few members for special attention. However, these five members (or six, if you allow us some leeway) have made especially visible contributions in the past few months, so perhaps we can highlight them simply as visible symbols of the many AEA members who routinely are advancing evaluation on a global scale. If so, let’s tip our caps to these five internationally minded AEA members (in alphabetical order, to be fair):
- Tessie Catsambas recently published an article in the American Journal of Evaluation titled “Creating a Global Movement in Evaluation: The Story of EvalPartners.” In case you don’t know EvalPartners, it’s an international collaborative initiative, launched jointly in 2012 by the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE) and UNICEF to improve country-led evaluation systems and policies around the world. EvalPartners has grown far and fast, and it now has 59 international partners, including AEA. You can learn more about EvalPartners here. Tessie’s article captures not only the what of EvalPartners – what happened when – but also the why and how – and it features the committed people who have led this remarkable initiative to promote evaluation globally.
- Claremont Graduate University – okay, technically this isn’t really a person, so we’re fudging here a bit – is now offering the second round of its totally free “E-Learning Program in Development Evaluation.” This is a menu of nine self-paced, online courses offered mostly in English, but also in Arabic, Russian, and Spanish. Developed by UNICEF, Claremont, and IOCE under the EvalPartners initiative and funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, these online courses were enormously popular in the first round, enrolling 13,000 participants from 172 different countries. If you’re interested, the next set of courses begins on May 26 and runs until September 17. You can learn more about these online courses and enroll if you’re interested here.
- Catherine Dizon and John Lavelle published an item in the EvalPartners Newsletter titled “AEA Makes Special Efforts to Develop Young Evaluators.” Catherine, at the University of California at Davis, co-chairs AEA’s Topical Interest Group on Graduate Students and New Evaluators (GSNE) along with her co-chair Carolyn Acker of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. John, at Claremont Graduate University, is the program liaison for AEA’s Graduate Education Diversity Internship program (GEDI). You can read their article and learn about other international efforts to encourage young evaluators here.
- Rakesh Mohan was featured, albeit from long distance, at the 13th annual conference of the Israeli Association for Program Evaluation, held on March 2. The theme this year was “Advocacy for Evaluation,” and Rakesh – whom the Israelis describe as “a staunch advocate for evaluation” – provided a video lecture on the topic. In addition, he then engaged in a lively Skype discussion with conference participants, which the conference proceedings reported was a “scintillating discussion of the main ways to conduct advocacy.” Perhaps most impressive, though, is that Rakesh did all this in the middle of his Idaho night – at 3:00 a.m., to be precise. You can see here a photo of Rakesh and participants during his video lecture.
- Donna Podems lives in Cape Town, South Africa, and works all over the world, yet she makes time to also serve on AEA’s board of directors, which requires not only occasional travel back to the U.S. for face-to-face meetings but also frequent virtual meetings at odd hours Cape Town time. Outside of her AEA responsibilities, Donna is a recognized expert on the professionalization of the evaluation field around the world. You can read here a recent article Donna wrote for the Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation about the process the South African government used to develop and institutionalize evaluator competencies. To see the importance of this for AEA members, simply look at the latest issue of New Directions for Evaluation, titled “Accreditation, Certification, and Credentialing: Relevant Concerns for U.S. Evaluators.” If interested, you can also participate in an open, ongoing discussion on this topic here.