AEA Newsletter: March 2015

Message from the President - Record Number of Proposals Submitted for 2015 Annual Conference!

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Dear Colleagues,

Many thanks for reaching out to your evaluation friends around the world and encouraging them to submit proposals for our next annual AEA Conference, Evaluation 2015, held November 9-14, 2015, in Chicago. We received a record number of conference proposals this year – we even passed the 2,000 mark for the first time ever! The TIGs and Conference Committee will be hard at work over the next couple of months reviewing the proposals and putting together the strongest and most exciting conference program possible under the theme of Exemplary Evaluations in a Multicultural World: Learning from Evaluation’s Successes Around the Globe.

Many of the sessions at Evaluation 2015 will highlight what has gone well in evaluation and will attempt to uncover major achievements, assets, unexplored potentials, innovations, strengths, opportunities, and high-point moments in the history of the evaluation practice. Please consider making plans now and encouraging your evaluation colleagues to attend what promises to be one of the most extraordinary evaluation conferences going on this year – the International Year of Evaluation.

You can find more information about Evaluation 2015 here.

The AEA Board, staff, and member volunteers are working on a number of new initiatives this year to advance the profession and transdiscipline of evaluation. For example, the AEA Board is participating in a process at our next board meeting to reimagine AEA for a more productive future. The AEA Credentialing Task Force has recommended we explore the possibility of developing evaluator competencies. A small group is currently working on this project. The AEA Cross-Discipline Task Force has recommended we explore mechanisms for increasing and deepening our collaboration with other evaluation-related professional organizations. This work is now underway. Other groups are working on strategic membership growth, improving our professional development activities, and the evaluation oversight of many of our activities. We plan to share some of the results of these efforts in future newsletters.

Finally, please mark your calendars and plan to attend the AEA 2015 Summer Evaluation Institute on May 31-June 3, 2015, in Atlanta. This AEA Institute will provide a wide array of evaluation trainings and professional development opportunities for evaluators, applied researchers, grantmakers, foundation program officers, nonprofit administrators, and graduate students.

Find more information about the AEA Summer Evaluation Institute here.  

Happy Spring!

Stewart Donaldson

2015 AEA President 

 

Diversity - We're Looking for a Few Good GEDI Host Sites

From Zachary Grays, AEA Headquarters 

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The American Evaluation Association is proud to announce the search for host sites to serve the 2015-2016 Graduation Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) cohort. The 11th GEDI cohort is coming to a close, with their commencement ceremony fast approaching at Summer Institute 2015 in Atlanta. AEA is incredibly proud of our seven scholars who have worked their way through the rigors of the program. (You can get to know them here.)

With the call for GEDI host sites upon us, AEA would like to take this time to thank and highlight the six host organizations that have served as the professional evaluation home of our GEDI scholars over the last year. This year AEA has had the pleasure of working with six prestigious host sites across the United States: Harlem Children’s Zone, Education Development Center, Harder + Company Community Research, Kaiser Permanente, Opportunity Fund, and National Cancer Institute.

Host sites provide meaningful evaluation project work and mentoring to the GEDI scholars, helping them transfer their strong inquiry skills to real-life situations in organizations, agencies, and firms. While each organization’s individual work is unique, the commonality between these outstanding organizations is that they each offer real-world evaluation experience for each of our interns through a variety of projects. Scholars become full-fledged members of the teams at their host sites, working on projects that are enriching, rigorous, and test the skills they’ve gained through their graduate studies. What the interns get is the exclusive opportunity to be mentored by these incredible site organizations to strengthen and expand their evaluation knowledge. The host sites get the opportunity to involve young evaluators from traditionally underrepresented populations in the profession through hands-on training and to engage these scholars in the practice/awareness of culturally responsive evaluation.      

The Education Development Center has sponsored two GEDI scholars in the last two cohorts. “EDC decided to participate in the GEDI internship program for a number of reasons, including our commitment to culturally responsive evaluation, our interest in supporting the next generation of evaluators, and the ways in which it brings new thinking to our evaluation practice,” says Leslie Goodyear, principal research scientist. “Our two interns have been terrific: smart, thoughtful, energetic, self-directed, and delightful people to work with. Because they participate in the internship meetings and develop an individual project, they bring new ideas and questions to the team.”

EDC’s experience has been especially unique as their interns have had the opportunity to work across firms in a collaboration with Westat. Goodyear continued, “The project on which our interns have worked is focused on evaluating a program that aims to broaden participation of women, people with disabilities, and people of color in computer science. It made sense to us, and to our funder, that we also commit to supporting more diversity in the evaluation field as well. In addition, because both of our interns have worked on the same project, we have been able to have this year’s intern build on the work of the first intern, taking the work to a new level and offering the team new insights about the evaluation.”

AEA would like to once again thank our dedicated host sites for their commitment to our young scholars. It is through the dedication of our host sites that GEDI interns are assured the most fruitful experience during their internship. To learn more about this year’s host sites, click here or visit the links above. Interested in hosting an intern? Complete the site questionnaire and send your completed material to Gail McCauley at gmccauley@eval.org by Friday, April 10, 2015 to participate in this unique opportunity to work with tomorrow's leaders today! Your organization will be in good company.

 

Potent Presentations Initiative - Get Help With Your Slides Before the Conference 

From Stephanie Evergreen, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator

Stephanie Evergreen-RS 2.pngYou’ve heard plenty of tips from the Potent Presentations Initiative. You’ve become convinced that typical slides don’t teach well – even for academic audiences. You’ve grown more aware of weaker presentations from your fellow evaluators at AEA. You’ve even dabbled in redesigning your slides, focusing your message, and giving attention to delivery. But sometimes, even with all those intentions, you can get stuck. You need some coaching to take your slides from pretty good to totally amazing.

This year, p2i and the Data Visualization and Reporting TIG will once again team up to host a Slide Clinic. We pair you up with a trained coach for one-on-one presentation triage. But the difference this year is that instead of hosting the clinic onsite at the conference, we’re going virtual. The Slide Clinic will be held before the conference, when you need the most help.

p2i Image.pngIf you want to sign up to get help with your slides, here’s what you need to know:

  • The Clinic will run from mid-August to mid-October. You’ll need to have your presentation solidified by mid-September, at the latest, to get coaching. That means you should have some slides already made and your basic content in place.
  • The Clinic will run in conjunction with a month of Coffee Break webinars, presented by Stephanie Evergreen and Ann Emery. The Coffee Breaks will provide message and delivery tips and showcase actual Slide Clinic cases (with permission) to discuss how to redesign slides and graphs.
  • The Clinic is free and our coaches are all trained volunteers.
  • Coaches will provide feedback but they won’t actually redesign your slides for you.

Sign up to get help with your slides by emailing Stephanie Evergreen at stephanie@eval.org

Look for more details to come soon!

 

Policy Watch - Evidence-Based Governing Initiatives

From Cheryl Oros, Consultant to the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF)

Cheryl Oros.jpgRecent months have brought some interesting activity in what appears to be a continuing and heartening trend to advocate for the use of evidence in government management and decision making. Last month we covered guidance in the Obama administration’s new FY 2016 budget emphasizing the generation and use of evidence. This month, bills are being reintroduced and Congressional hearings have been held. In addition, other groups have sponsored events on evidenced-based government. AEA has been monitoring and encouraging efforts to increase the conduct and use of evaluations and has provided testimony and endorsed portions of bills relevant to evaluation. Here are some highlights.

Representatives Young and Delaney reintroduced their Social Impact Partnership bill (H.R. 1336) on March 4. It aims to amend Title XX of the Social Security Act (related to social services) to expand and improve meaningful social and public health interventions, while driving taxpayer savings. The bill would require the federal government to clearly define desired outcomes for specific target populations. It then allows private sector and philanthropic investors to fund the expansion of scientifically proven interventions aimed at achieving those outcomes. The bill requires that rigorous independent evaluation confirm that the desired outcomes are met, with up to 15 percent of program funding permitted for such evaluations. If the outcomes are met, the federal government would repay investors with a modest return out of savings realized from a decreased reliance on government programs. If the outcomes are not met, no taxpayer money is spent. AEA has written a letter of endorsement of the evaluation components of this bill.

Senator Murray and Representative Ryan, the Senate and House Budget Committee chairs, are expected to reintroduce their Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission bill very soon. The bill, originally introduced in late November 2014, would establish a commission to study how best to expand the use of data to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs and tax expenditures. The Commission would determine whether the federal government should establish a clearinghouse for program and survey data, which researchers from both the private and public sector could access and use to perform program evaluations and policy-relevant research. In December, AEA sent a letter to the committee chairs endorsing their efforts. The letter also recommended broadening the types of evaluations the commission should promote to best answer pressing questions about federal programs and policies.

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources held a hearing on March 17 on “Expanding Opportunity by Funding What Works: Using Evidence to Help Low-Income Individuals and Families Get Ahead.” The subcommittee discussed using evidence to determine which federal programs are effective for helping low-income families and individuals. Witnesses advocated for rigorously evaluating the social programs and using evidence to fund programs that work in order to help low-income Americans. AEA provided written testimony to this subcommittee regarding evaluation issues.

The Committee on the Use of Economic Evidence to Inform Investments in Children, Youth, and Families of the Board on Children, Youth, and Families in the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council of the National Academies of Science held a meeting on March 23 on “The Use of Economic Evidence to Inform Investments in Children, Youth, and Families.” The public session covered the standards for evaluation of effectiveness, costs, benefits, feasibility to scale-up, and potential for return on investment of programs. Speakers also discussed common methods to support sustained, ongoing use of evaluation and how to overcome barriers to the use of economic evidence in government investments. Former AEA president Jodi Fitzpatrick serves on this committee. 

The Center for Effective Public Management at Brookings hosted a discussion on March 11 with former governor (and mayor) Martin O’Malley (“Data-Driven Government: A New Approach to Governing”) to explore how data-driven decision making, open data, and performance measurement can positively impact government policy and effectiveness. O’Malley provided examples of using data to drive policy decisions, set goals, and measure performance for decision making on programs, such as CitiStat in Baltimore and StateStat in Maryland, and discussed how these approaches could be used in the federal government

If you know of any bills related to federal evaluation that may be introduced in the next Congressional session, or that would benefit from having evaluation components added, or other venues in which evaluation will be discussed, please contact me at EvaluationPolicy@eval.org. We look forward to your input.

 

International Policy Update - United Nations, Evaluation of EvalPartners, and More Global Events

From Mike Hendricks, AEA Representative to the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), with contributions from Jim Rugh, EvalPartners Co-Coordinator

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This has been a very busy month for evaluation around the globe. As you’ll see below, the U.N. Secretary-General offered strong support for evaluation, the three-year-old EvalPartners Initiative was evaluated, and six events were held on four different continents to celebrate EvalYear 2015. These are exciting days to be in evaluation!

U.N. Secretary-General Highlights the Importance of Evaluation

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently lit the evaluation torch to celebrate 2015 as the International Year of Evaluation. This photo shows him alongside our evaluation colleagues Deborah Rugg and Marco Segone.

During the ceremony, Ki-moon stressed the importance of evaluation in strengthening developing nations around the world.

“I welcome the designation of 2015 as the International Year of Evaluation – the same year in which the United Nations marks its 70th anniversary and will make momentous decisions about our future prosperity, safety, and well-being. Evaluation everywhere, and at every level, will play a key role in implementing the new development agenda,” Ki-moon said. “Evaluation is not easy. Nor is it popular. But it is essential. … All of us share a responsibility to strengthen this important function. I look forward to working with all of you to strengthen evaluation capacity so that it can play its rightful role in building lives of dignity for all.”

EvalPartners Evaluates Itself

AEA is a member of the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), and thus also of EvalPartners (EP), the global movement to strengthen national evaluation capacities. EP is very young – only three years old – and in an admirable example of “practicing what we preach,” EP commissioned two external evaluators to conduct a developmental evaluation of what EP is, what it does, and what it signifies on the global stage. EP leaders wanted the evaluation to help shape decisions about what EP could be and could achieve beyond EvalYear 2015.

The evaluation focused on three key issues: (1) EP’s role in the international evaluation landscape; (2) EP’s efforts and effects on capacity building at multiple levels; and (3) EP’s governance structure, decision-making, and implementation processes. Data were gathered via document reviews, online surveys of professional evaluators, key informant interviews, targeted email surveys, questionnaires, and participant observation of EP meetings.

Overall, the evaluators were quite positive about EP, saying, “EvalPartners has achieved a great deal in a short amount of time. Its successes appear to share four characteristics: (1) resonance and relevance to the broader evaluation community; (2) a focus on building and leveraging relationships between and across evaluation actors; (3) flexibility and openness; and (4) boldness of imagination.”

At the same time, the evaluators offered 16 recommendations to improve the situation in nine key areas. The EP leadership is currently studying those recommendations and developing plans to move forward. You can read the full, 97-page report here and the six-page executive summary here.

Six Additional Events Held to Celebrate EvalYear 2015 Around the Globe

  • More than 120 evaluators from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) recently joined with Egypt’s minister of social solidarity to light the evaluation torch during the fourth EvalMENA conference in Cairo, Egypt. You can view here a group photo of the participants, and you can watch here a TV news report of the conference, featuring interviews with the two EvalPartners co-chairs, Ziad Moussa (in Arabic at the 3:00 mark) and Marco Segone (in English at the 3:42 mark).
  • The Network for Evaluation of Latin America and Caribbean (ReLAC in Spanish) recently held its fourth annual conference in Lima, Peru. Over 400 participants attended from national and international institutions throughout Latin America. The conference was opened by Peru’s minister of health, a former professor of evaluation. Sessions focused on evaluation advances in recent years and on new approaches for the future. One theme was the need to improve evaluation reports to provide easier access to data and ideas. For example, some reports take only five to seven pages, while other reports contain no text at all, only graphics presentations. An excellent collection of photos and highlights (in Spanish) from many different sessions can be viewed here
  • The Israeli Association for Program Evaluation (IAPE) recently held its 13th annual conference, under the theme Advocacy for Evaluation. The conference opened with a talk by Eliad Shraga, chairman of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel. This was followed by a video lecture by, and Skype conversation with, AEA’s own Rakesh Mohan, director of the Office of Performance Evaluations in the state of Idaho and a staunch advocate for evaluation. The day ended with workshops to plan various advocacy efforts. Photos and more details of the day can be seen here.
  • The Réseau Ivoirien de Suivi et d'Evaluation (RISE) recently held its very first Ivorian Evaluation Days in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. This French-speaking conference launched activities in Africa for the 2015 International Year of Evaluation. Under the patronage of the minister of planning and development, national and international experts, representatives of government, universities, NGOs, the private sector, and civil society discussed the necessary conditions for a better evaluation culture in Côte d’Ivoire. The chair of the African Parliamentarians Network for Development Evaluation was also present. You can view here some of the key participants.
  • Several organizations recently held a conference at Wageningen University in the Netherlands on Monitoring and Evaluation for Responsible Innovation. The conference encouraged evaluators to ask if program goals are responsible and how evaluators can become more aware and critical of unexpected effects. For example, do evaluators have an obligation to be clear which questions must be asked? What competencies are needed to do this? What conversations should be held with whom? And who is accountable for transformative innovation? Keynote speakers were Dr. Irene Guijt and Dr. Phil Macnaghten. Conference participants can be seen here
  • In New Zealand, 24 public sector research and evaluation teams recently joined with the Prime Minister’s office, the Ministry of Finance, and evaluation associations from both New Zealand (ANZEA) and Australasia (AES) to launch a year-long series of events as part of EvalYear 2015. The events are designed to improve policy outcomes through the use of evaluation. Throughout the year, there will be a series of “How Do I?” workshops targeted to policy and program participants. More information about these events is here

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