Newsletter: December 2010Vol 10, Issue 12

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Thanks & Farewell 

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Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Starting next month, our incoming President, Jennifer Greene, will carry on the practice of keeping members updated on Board activities and other issues and events through the President's letter in the newsletter.

In my closing message, I want to thank some of the many people who have been a source of support and guidance throughout the year. In addition to my fellow Board members, I want to recognize the people that I appointed to Priority Area Teams (PAT) - Tarek Azzam, Julie Nielsen, and Marilyn Ray of the Values PAT; Thomaz Chianca and Nicki King of the Public Engagement Team; Tanya Brown, Amy Germouth, Gretchen Jordan, and Daniela Schroeter of the Knowledge & Professional Support PAT; Gail Barrington on the Leadership PAT; and Fred Newman on the Finance PAT. Over two years ago, when I asked each of these people if they would be willing to serve AEA on various committees, it was not clear if the committee structure would continue or how it would be transformed. But I knew that I could count on them to be productive and positive even under challenging circumstances. They have done an excellent job and an awful lot of hard work on behalf of the Board and AEA over the past couple of years, and they have been wonderful sources of support during my presidential year. I look forward to continuing to work with them in 2011.

I also want to thank Valerie Caracelli and Rodney Hopson, my two Presidential Strand Co-Chairs. In the process of pulling together a strong conference program, they took the lead on identifying plenary speakers and handled various bumps in the road with both grace and wit. I chose them because of our complementary strengths - they confirmed my assessment of my weaknesses and more than justified my judgment of their strengths. In other words, it all worked out perfectly!

Throughout the year, whether the task had to do with conference planning or with AEA Board business, Susan Kistler, AEA's Executive Director, was a constant source of energy, ideas, and support. The job of AEA President can be challenging, but she does everything she can to smooth the way. I have also had the pleasure of working with AEA's Communications Director, Gwen Newman. In addition to making sure we have a regular newsletter, Gwen is now working on our first annual report to continue to increase the transparency of AEA's activities. I greatly appreciate the work that both Susan and Gwen have done this year to help me and serve our members.

Finally, I want to thank Deb Rog for her excellent mentorship and friendship. It takes a past president to know what a current president is going through. She has been an ongoing source of encouragement and strategic inspiration.

For me, one of the best parts of being AEA President has been getting to know and working with great people, many of whom I wouldn't have met if I had not been in this role. I am so honored to have had the opportunity to represent and serve you. Many, many thanks to you all.

Leslie

Leslie Cooksy
2010 AEA President
In This Issue
Policy Watch with George Grob
TechTalk with LaMarcus Bolton
AEA's Outstanding Evaluation Award
Meet AEA's Treasurer
Graduate Education Diversity Internship Program
Volunteer Opportunities
New Job Postings
Get Involved
About Us
Quick Links
Policy Watch - Ringing in the New Biennium
From George Grob, Consultant to the Evaluation Policy Task Force

Grob

The New Year is fast upon us, and it is time for reflection and resolutions. In the federal policy world, we also count two years at a time. For example, now is the 111th Congress, with the 112th only weeks away. Similarly, it is common to think of presidential terms in two year chunks. We are now ending the first half of the Obama Administration and about to start the second. So for our policy work, we need to reflect on the last biennium, and strategize about the coming one.

 

Looking back is pleasant. AEA began by engaging senior officials of the New Administration. An early version of the Evaluation Policy Task Force's (EPTF) document An Evaluation Roadmap for a More Effective Government was delivered to senior officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) upon their arrival. I can't say that they took action because they read it, but many of its principles are embedded in the Administration's policy emphasizing impact evaluation and in its budget guidance for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.

 

We also made inroads in the Congress. We see our handiwork in the oversight of health insurance reforms in the new health care legislation, in emphasis on evaluation funding in a foreign assistance appropriations committee report, and in the House reauthorization bill for foreign assistance.

 

More generally, embracing evaluation as an essential feature of good government is emphasized throughout the health care reform bill and in the President's global health initiative.

 

AEA also made good progress in managing evaluation policy. It has always been difficult for professional organizations to respond rapidly to opportunities to comment on emerging policy issues while still engaging its membership and governing bodies. However, AEA has done so through its membership vote of approval of the Roadmap and in its public comments to OMB on the Paperwork Reduction Act; to the Department of Health and Human Services on the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs; and to the Government Accountability Office on its Auditing Standards.

 

Now, it is time to plan the next two years. Resources are limited. However, it is better to start with a long list and narrow it down than vice-versa. So the EPTF would like to invite your input. Some of you have already started without our call, and that is great. I am referring to a recent string of conversations on the evaluation policy discussion list responding to a question by one AEA member, Margaret Johnson of Cornell University, "What would you say are the top few issues in evaluation policy right now?" An excellent question, Margaret, and one to which we would like to have a lot of answers. What better way to ring in the new biennium than to lay down some challenges? So I encourage discussion list members to put in their two cents, and for others to consider joining the EPTF Discussion List to share your ideas regarding policy-influencing opportunities.

 

Go to the EPTF Website and Join the EPTF Discussion List

TechTalk - Integrating Technology  into the Workplace
From LaMarcus Bolton, AEA Technology Director
 
BoltonAs previous TechTalk articles have demonstrated, technology can be extremely valuable for promoting efficiency in one's workflow. However, despite its usefulness, incorporating technology into evaluations can create challenges for many organizations. I spoke with several individuals recently to discuss the challenges their respective associations experienced in integrating technology into their daily work.

 

Although technology creates networks and facilitates new forms of communication, several of AEA's Summer Institute attendees noted that technology has the side effect of reducing the "human element" of social interaction. Stacy Carruth, Community Health Specialist at the Regional Center for Healthy Communities, noted that because of technological advancements, her association has less face-to-face contact. Steve Fleming, Systems Analyst for the National Center for Educational Achievement, agreed, "There is less personal interaction. It seems to lead to less program effect. I don't think we know yet how to achieve the same impact through online interaction that could be had through personal interaction..." This issue could be a concern for many associations looking to implement technology. Despite this downside of technology, Maureen Wilce, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offered a potential solution: "The key thing is to get people to integrate technology into everything they are already using." In other words, technology should not replace aspects of an individual's work, but rather serve as a tool to complement their work.

 

Another challenge that several of our Institute attendees encountered was resistance by key individuals within their respective associations. As Charlotte Kabore, CDC Public Health Advisor at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, explained: "Anytime there's something new, there's going to be change or resistance." Fortunately, Charlotte offered suggestions on how to tackle this issue: "When I see someone resisting, I ask 'How do you see this?' or 'What will work best in your mind?' Allow them to have their input and express to them that this is just a new way to get a task done."

 

This article is one part of a short series on technology use in evaluation. If you have any interesting accounts of technological challenges, please consider sharing within our technology forum! And, if you have any other questions, I can be reached at [email protected].

AEA Honors Urban Health Initiative with 2010 Outstanding Evaluation Award

Join us as we congratulate the recipients of this year's AEA Awards. Recognized on Friday, Nov. 12 in conjunction with AEA's Evaluation 2010 conference in San Antonio were four awardees who've helped heighten international evaluation efforts, spearhead a groundbreaking new journal, influence a health initiative that impacted the lives of children and families in five urban communities, and influence a new generation of evaluators. We will spotlight one recipient below and will highlight others in upcoming issues of AEA's monthly newsletter. Thank you all for your generous contributions to AEA, to the field, and to our greater communities.

 

OutstandingevalThe evaluation of a health initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was honored as the recipient of AEA's 2010 Outstanding Evaluation Award. Accepting on behalf of the Urban Health Initiative (UHI)'s national evaluation team was Beth C. Weitzman. 

 

"Among the many factors leading to this recognition were the actual and potential impact of this report and its associated publications on the evaluation design of large-scale community health programs," says Tarek Azzam, chair of AEA's 2010 Awards Committee. "The UHI evaluation offered a model for how to conduct long-term place-based evaluations that capture local program impact through qualitative approaches while combining this information within a broader quantitative perspective. Most importantly, the evaluation accommodated the information needs of stakeholders at the local and policy levels by offering relevant information for each group to help inform their decision making processes."

The Urban Health Initiative prompted changes in public policy, led to new partnerships with various local agencies and fostered collaboration between health care facilities and schools, social service agencies and other youth-serving institutions. Each site attempted to educate the public about the health and safety problems faced by their city's youth. Civic engagement was encouraged through candidate forums on children's issues and, in some sites, through voter registration activities. Some initiatives yielded success; others served as lessons learned. The Urban Health Initiative was a 10-year multi-city initiative that began in 1995 and was aimed at improving health and safety of children and youth in large distressed cities that included Baltimore, Md., Detroit, Mi., Oakland, Ca., Philadelphia, Pa., and Richmond, Va. The long-term nature of the project and its impact at multiple sites made it particularly challenging and comprehensive both in scope and in evaluation efforts. 

"Just as we struggle to try to find the appropriate policies and programs to improve the health and safety of children in America's most distressed cities, so too must we struggle with the question of how best to figure out which of these policies and programs are proving most beneficial," says Weitzman. "Evaluating the ambitious and bold effort that was the Urban Health Initiative required that we grapple with this question, and I am deeply appreciative that the Association has recognized, with this award, our efforts to find a balanced, rigorous, and creative approach."

Weitzman is a Professor of Health and Public Policy and serves as Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs at New York University's Steinhardt School. Other members of the UHI evaluation team include Diana Silver, who served as project director to the evaluation, Tod Mijanovich, and Charles Brecher, all of whom are affiliated with New York University.

We invite you to think about AEA's 2011 Awards and to consider nominating colleagues for this distinction. You'll find an overview at the link below, as well as specific nominating instructions.

Go to AEA's Awards Page

Meet AEA Treasurer Brian Yates

In a previous issue, we introduced the results of AEA's 2010 election and the names of our incoming Board members, AEA Treasurer and 2012 President. We promised you then that we would follow up with more specifics on each of them. In this issue, we spotlight Treasurer Brian Yates, recently re-elected to a second three-year term. 

YatesBrian is a professor in the Department of Psychology at American University in Washington, DC, and has been a member of AEA since its inception. He helped establish AEA's first topical interest group devoted to cost-inclusive evaluation - the Cost, Effectiveness, Benefits and Economics TIG - and has published 72 articles and book chapters that focus predominately on cost-effectiveness or cost-benefit analysis.

"As AEA Treasurer since 2007, I have overseen the growth of AEA assets from $1.9 to over $2.1 million in fully insured funds during a financially troubled period when most associations saw their assets plummet. In addition, and with the guidance of the Board, we undertook the first audit of AEA's finances ever, after a rigorous selection of over 30 firms who vied to be our auditor. As Treasurer I will continue this policy of sound investment in secure assets, so that we continue to have a secure financial foundation from which to pursue our professional goals as evaluators."

AEA's Graduate Education Diversity Internship Program - Learn More

From Rita O'Sullivan and Michelle Jay

 

As co-directors of AEA's Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) Program, we are pleased to (re)introduce the program to the AEA membership. We hope this brief article enables the readership to familiarize itself with our mission, generates interest among eligible graduate students, and piques the interest of individuals and organizations interested in partnering with AEA to support the program in accomplishing its goals.

 

GediThe GEDI program works to engage and support students from groups traditionally under-represented in the field of evaluation. The goals of the program are to: expand the pool of graduate students of color and from other underrepresented groups who have extended their research capacities to evaluation; stimulate evaluation thinking concerning underrepresented communities and culturally responsive evaluation; and deepen the evaluation profession's capacity to work in racially, ethnically and culturally diverse settings. Interns from a variety of academic disciplines who possess a strong background in research skills, and who are committed to thinking deeply about culturally-responsive evaluation practice, participate in a 10-month internship experience designed to extend their capacities to the field of evaluation.

 

The internship experience is anchored by four training seminars throughout the year. In the first seminar, we spent four days engaging in intensive "Evaluation 101" training and laid the foundations for developing culturally responsive evaluation practices. The interns took their knowledge and skills into their internships where, from October to May, with the guidance of a site supervisor well-versed in evaluation, they spent roughly 16 hours a week engaged in a variety of evaluation tasks and activities. Specifics of their involvement depend heavily on their sites and range from spending their time focusing on one specific data gathering event for an evaluation (e.g. drafting and distributing a survey instrument and analyzing the resulting data) to participating in each step of the lifecycle of one evaluation. Interns leave the program having gained hands-on evaluation experience within the context of a particular evaluation culture.

 

Interns recently returned from their second major training seminar - AEA's annual conference in San Antonio (a first-time experience for seven of the eight). The whirlwind week included attending pre-conference workshops and conference sessions as well as meeting AEA's Board of Directors and a host of leaders in the field. Their biggest accomplishment, though, was heading up the evaluation of the conference's plenary sessions. As part of a group evaluation project (another component of the internship experience), they helped to develop and distribute the survey given to participants after each plenary session (if you happen to have completed one of these forms, we thank you). These data, along with data generated from three focus group sessions they facilitated with conference attendees, will be analyzed and reported to the AEA Board later this year.

 

In upcoming months, the interns will continue working at their internship sites and also attend their third training seminar - a site visit designed to provide them with the opportunity to exchange ideas with a variety of evaluation stakeholders (evaluation providers; university faculty who teach evaluation; non-profits and foundations, etc.) who either utilize or offer evaluation services. The interns will wrap up their experience by attending the AEA/CDC Summer Institute in June.

 

Go to AEA's Graduate Education Diversity Internship page

AEA Volunteer Opportunities
Make a difference in your association for 2011!

25th Anniversary Working Group:
Did you know that 2011 is AEA's 25th Anniversary? We'll celebrate with notable opportunities throughout the year as well as special recognition and celebration at the annual conference. If you would like to shape our 25th anniversary plans, considering joining the 25th Anniversary Working Group. We welcome members who have been with us for 25 years, joined last week, and everything in between. How would you like to learn from our most senior members? What expertise do you have to share? The group will meet via conference call 1-2 times per month throughout 2011 and exchange emails in between to hone in on great ideas and cement our plans. If you are interested in joining the 25th Anniversary Working Group, send an email by January 10 to AEA Executive Director, Susan Kistler, at [email protected] noting your interest and the reason you wish to participate. (added December 2010)

AEA365 Tip-a-Day Alerts Contributors: The aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts are dedicated to highlighting Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources, and Lessons Learned by and for evaluators (see the aea365 site here). Begun on January 1, 2010, we're kicking off our second year and hoping to expand the diversity of voices, perspectives, and content shared during the coming year. We're seeking colleagues to write one-time contributions of 250-400 words from their own experience. No online writing experience is necessary - you simply review examples on the aea356 Tip-a-Day Alerts site, craft your entry according to the contributions guidelines, and send it to Michelle Baron our blog coordinator. She'll do a final edit and upload. If you have questions, or want to learn more, please review the site and then contact Michelle at [email protected]. (updated December 2011)

New Jobs & RFPs from AEA's Career Center  
What's new this month in the AEA Online Career Center? The following positions and Requests for Proposals (RFPs) have been added recently:

  • Director of Research and Evaluation at University of Illinois at Chicago (Chicago, IL, USA) 
  • Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Technical Advisor at IntraHealth International (Chapel Hill, NC, USA) 
  • Health Evaluation Specialist Master at Deloitte Consulting LLP (Atlanta, GA, USA)  
  • Research Associate at Center for Applied Research Solutions (Santa Rosa, CA, USA)
  • Program Evaluator at Amity Foundation (Albuquerque, NM, USA) 
  • Research Associate at American Institutes for Research (Chicago, IL, USA) 
  • Research Manager/Associate at Center for Effective Philanthropy (Cambridge, MA, USA)
  • Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist at Management Systems International (Washington, DC, USA)
  • Monitoring and Evaluation Supervisor at Land O'Lake Inc. (Shoreview, MN, USA)
  • Research Supervisor for Housing Outcomes at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication/WSU (Olympia, WA, USA)
Descriptions for each of these positions, and many others, are available in AEA's Online Career Center. According to Google analytics, the Career Center received approximately 5,000 unique page views in the past month. It is an outstanding resource for posting your resume or position, or for finding your next employer, contractor or employee. 

Job hunting? You can also sign up to receive notifications of new position postings via email or RSS feed.
 
Go to the AEA Online Career Center
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About Us
The American Evaluation Association is an international professional association of evaluators devoted to the application and exploration of evaluation in all its forms.
 
The American Evaluation Association's mission is to:
  • Improve evaluation practices and methods
  • Increase evaluation use
  • Promote evaluation as a profession and
  • Support the contribution of evaluation to the generation of theory and knowledge about effective human action.
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