Newsletter: May 2014 

Vol 14, Issue 5

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Message from the President: For this Year's Conference, Six Words Can Go a Long Way 

 

Dear AEA Colleagues, 

 

I'd like to start by extending a big thank you to the many AEA members who have been engaged in the review of proposals for Evaluation 2014, to be held Oct. 15-18, 2014, in Denver. I'd also like to thank those of you who have been involved in other preparations for addressing the conference's theme, Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future

I encourage all of you to learn more about this year's theme. You can find more information on our website, including a video explaining our theme and further details on the three dimensions of our evaluation practice that underscore the theme.

We are very excited about this year's theme, and along with that excitement we are eager to hear what this theme means to you. To do this, I invite all AEA members to write and share six-word stories about what the theme means to you. That's right — six words! This will be a fun way to highlight the diverse and creative ideas about what visionary evaluation is that I'm sure exist among our members. 

So, why a six-word story? Because that's how Hemingway would do it! Legend has it that Hemingway's fellow writers once bet him that he could not write an entire story in six words. In true Hemingway form, he promptly wrote, "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn" and won the bet. And while this story has not been verified (and we are not all Hemingways!), we can still have fun crafting our own six-word stories.

Last month at the close of my presentation at the Eastern Evaluation Research Society conference, I invited attendees to submit six-word stories about visionary evaluation that drew on the conference theme (Balancing Rigor and Resources). Here are some examples:

Rigor begets freedom and then results. George Grob 
Rigor mortis, let's not go planetary. Mel Mark 
Sustainable, rigorous evaluation depends on us. Rekha Shukla and Amy Newell

So, start writing your six-word stories, then send to me at [email protected]. Even better, why not write your story on a piece of paper or poster board, and then send us a photo of you holding your story. Most importantly, we want you to be creative and have fun! As we receive your stories, we'll look for ways to incorporate them into the conference.

I'm especially eager to hear some six-word stories that tie to one of AEA's great resources: the AEA Cultural Competency statement. It is particularly relevant to our theme. This statement was developed by a dedicated group who took a nebulous concept and transformed it into a statement with great practical and theoretical significance for evaluation.

Visionary evaluation is not a new evaluation method. Visionary evaluation is something you create for yourself. It's about seeing where you are in your understanding and use of evaluation and then envisioning what you can do, individually and collectively, to contribute more significantly to a sustainable, equitable future through how you conduct your evaluation.

If you haven't looked at the Cultural Competency statement lately, here's a great opportunity to review it. It is closely linked to the guiding principle of AEA that focuses on the public good. And what can be better for the public good than a sustainable, equitable future for all?

I look forward to reading your stories!

Warm regards, 
 


 

 

 

Beverly Parsons

AEA 2014 President

In This Issue
Walking the Talk
Face of AEA
Diversity
p2i
New Job Postings
Get Involved
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AEA Values - Walking the Talk with Brian Dates

Are you familiar with AEA's values statement? What do these values mean to you in your service to AEA and in your own professional work? Each month, we'll be asking a member of the AEA community to contribute her or his own reflections on the association's values.  

 

AEA's Values Statement

The American Evaluation Association values excellence in evaluation practice, utilization of evaluation findings, and inclusion and diversity in the evaluation community.

 

             i.  We value high quality, ethically defensible, culturally responsive evaluation practices that lead to effective and humane organizations and ultimately to the enhancement of the public good.

             ii. We value high quality, ethically defensible, culturally responsive evaluation practices that contribute to decision-making processes, program improvement, and policy formulation.

            iii. We value a global and international evaluation community and understanding of evaluation practices.

            iv. We value the continual development of evaluation professionals and the development of evaluators from under-represented groups.

             v. We value inclusiveness and diversity, welcoming members at any point in their career, from any context, and representing a range of thought and approaches.

            vi. We value efficient, effective, responsive, transparent, and socially responsible association operations.

 

 


Brian Dates works for Southwest Solutions, a Detroit-based provider of of human services, affordable housing, and economic development. He is the president of the Michigan Association for Evaluation Board of Directors. 

 

Program evaluation entered my career early, when as administrator of a school for delinquent youth, negligible resources resulted in my being pressed into service, adding evaluation to my list of responsibilities — through that ubiquitous line in job descriptions, "... and any other duties as assigned." The process of evaluation quickly resonated with me. Evaluation took place in the real world, not a constructed context, and sought to identify how things worked and whether they mattered to the intended recipient. It was an opportunity to identify successes, which could be applied directly or through adaptation to alleviate inequities and improve lives.

As a member of the board of directors of the Michigan Association for Evaluation, I've had the good fortune to become acquainted with Jim Sanders and the humbling experience of following him as Dr. Standards, responding to ethical questions in the organization's newsletter. I've had the privilege of helping to facilitate the organization's Emerging Minority Evaluator's Project as well.

Selecting which values mean the most to me in my practice has been akin to determining which Constitutional amendments are the most important. Any subset can become an insult to the whole. However, while reflecting on my early career choice of program evaluation over clinical practice, I realized this decision was driven by the potential to provide information that would improve far more lives than I could as an individual practitioner, to contribute learning that might "... lead to effective and humane organizations and ultimately to the enhancement of the public good." This, for me, is the essence of our work. It is not just the persons in a program within an organization who benefit. It is the families, friends, neighborhood, and community.

So, how do we accomplish this? I believe it is through "... efficient, effective, responsive, transparent, and socially responsible association operations." Because we have the capacity to affect so many lives, we must be mindful of that responsibility in all our actions. Regardless of pressures from funders and programs with respect to the direction of evaluation findings, we must comport ourselves with integrity in all phases of an evaluation.

Finally, I am a firm supporter of "... the continual development of evaluation professionals and the development of evaluators from underrepresented groups." To be responsible in contributing to the public good, we cannot be stagnant in our development. We must forever be travelers in the enhancement of our own skills, accepting that a "destination" is not in our future. Part of the trip must be to encourage and provide the development and opportunities for groups that have hitherto been underrepresented in the evaluation community. The phrase "culturally responsive evaluation practices" appears twice in the six values. How can we hope to be culturally responsive to funders and evaluands if we are not just responsive, but promoting as well, within our own profession?


I am reminded in my practice of a line by Ralph Waldo Emerson that, perhaps over-quoted, is still relevant. When describing success, he wrote, "To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived." We should all aim our practices to know that many lives have been improved because of our evaluative efforts. 

Face of AEA -  Meet Wanda Casillas

AEA's more than 7,800 members worldwide represent a range of backgrounds, specialties, and interest areas. Join us as we profile a different member each month via a short question-and-answer exchange. This month's profile spotlights Wanda Casillas.

  

Headshot of Wanda Casillas

Name: Wanda D. Casillas, Ph.D. 

Affiliation: University of Michigan 

Degrees: B.A. in psychology, M.A. in human development, Ph.D. in human development 

Years in Evaluation Field: 10

Joined AEA: 2008

  

 

 

Why do you belong to AEA? 

  

The American Evaluation Association is the most vibrant networking and professional development community available to professional evaluators and others with an interest in evaluation and applied research. Not only is the AEA yearly conference a catalyst for my career, but in conjunction with tools like the Coffee Break webinars and the AEA365 blog, AEA supports my training and professional development throughout the year. Above all, the AEA community is welcoming, exciting, and always growing. Though the organization has been an invaluable part of my professional life, it is also a familial-like community where evaluation friends and family can come together and support one another.   

  

What's the most memorable or meaningful evaluation that you have been part of?  

  

I assisted with an evaluation of military support programs for military families with special needs dependents. Though I usually focus on evaluations of education initiatives, this opportunity seemed important in less tangible ways. I learned a great deal about how the military thinks of their special needs families, what options are available to these families, and what these families aren't getting to support their unique situations. People may believe that as long as military families have medical benefits, they have all that they need. However, this evaluation helped me to think with more depth about all the ways in which medical care isn't enough for families that are often split up, moved around, and far away from their family and other social support networks. Most importantly, I was challenged to think about what we as citizens can and should do to support the families of military personnel — those with special needs children and in general.  

  

What advice would you give to those new to the field?

  

First, I think it is important to start forming a philosophy of practice from the start of one's career. It is useful to think about why you want to do evaluation work, what kind of impact you want your work to have, and what approaches or "toolkits" match your philosophy. Of course, these may change over time, but exploring these things early on can help you decide what sectors to work within (e.g., education, health, etc.) and help you identify collaborators. Also, since not all evaluation practitioners come to evaluation through formal training, accessing potential professional development opportunities and organizations (like AEA!) is key to one's success.  

Diversity - Culturally Responsive Evaluation and You: Dr. Katrina Bledsoe and OMG Center Explore CRE

From Zachary Grays, AEA Headquarters

 

This year's conference theme, Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future, speaks at length about the relationship between evaluation and evaluation users in their pursuit of a sustainable, equitable future. The faces of these evaluation end users are diverse and represent citizens of a constantly evolving global ecosystem with unique needs. To best serve these emerging and varied communities, evaluators must be well versed in Culturally Responsive Evaluation (CRE). What is CRE? Why is CRE so necessary in practice? What are the challenges of CRE? 


Dr. Katrina Bledsoe, active AEA member, research scientist, and senior evaluation specialist with the Education Development Center (EDC), where she works on a variety of education, health, and social services evaluations, sat down with our friends at the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning to offer her very passionate, transparent, and informative perspective on culturally responsive evaluation.  

 

 

Dr. Bledsoe is no stranger to AEA, our values, and advocating for the understanding of cultural context, social justice, and the betterment of diverse communities. Dr. Bledsoe has served on the AEA Board of Directors, led the Program Theory-Driven Evaluation TIG as both the chair and program chair, and worked on the task force that developed the AEA Public Statement of Cultural Competence. While Dr. Bledsoe works on a number of national- and state-level evaluations, her passion and expertise is primarily in community-focused projects conducting collaborative and participatory evaluations within the group's individual context. As a former director of the Graduate Education Diversity Initiative (GEDI) and as a current GEDI host site coordinator on behalf of EDC, Dr. Bledsoe actively champions culturally inclusive evaluation and the development of a diverse profession. We would like to share with you the two-part interview done with Dr. Bledsoe, courtesy of the OMG Center:

  

Interview with Dr. Katrina Bledsoe - Part 1
Interview with Dr. Katrina Bledsoe - Part 1

 

Interview with Dr. Katrina Bledsoe - Part 2
Interview with Dr. Katrina Bledsoe - Part 2

The OMG Center invites you to share your thoughts and comments on this video and on culturally responsive evaluation in the video's comments section. Encouraging this important dialogue broadens the capacity for evaluators to be active participants in the enhancement of the diverse communities they serve. Engage your fellow colleagues on the very crucial topic of CRE and its role in evaluation!


AEA would like to thank Dr. Bledsoe and the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning for sharing this wonderful narrative on CRE. To learn more about the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning, click here.  

Potent Presentations Initiative - Tips from the Pros 
From Stephanie Evergreen, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator 
 
Michael Quinn Patton is the kind of guy who can hold an audience's attention for a day-long workshop without the support of a slideshow. How does he do it? We asked him and 11 other top AEA presenters for their advice on developing the message, design, and delivery of a presentation. Here is what our Dynamic Dozen had to say:
 
On Message 
Crafting a solid message is all about figuring out how to get your key points across while engaging your audience. This sounds easier than it is in practice. One of our Dynamic Dozen said, "I think what causes people problems is they are trying to figure out what they want to say as they are creating the presentation. You have to first create the key points and then figure out what you want to say." So take some time (you won't need much) to identify the handful of important points your audience must know when they leave. Only after that should you begin to flesh out the presentation and start making slides. 
 
Read more on Dynamic Dozen: Message 
 
On Design 
Some presentation settings can call for just a (well-designed) workbook or handout, but most need some bigger visual support because, as one presenter noted, "The visuals really help take the boring and make it as exciting as possible." Keep making that handout, though! Our Dynamic Dozen said they'll often strive for slides that have very few words ("No one likes a data dump"), but they'll post the handout in AEA's eLibrary, which serves as a much more useful reference for audience members. 
 
Read more on Dynamic Dozen: Design 
 
On Delivery 
Everyone has had a presentation blunder, even those who have been presenting for 25 years or more. The most common cause? Lack of preparation. One of our Dynamic Dozen recommended focusing practice time mainly on "the first five minutes and the last five minutes" and several others said they do the same thing. One presenter believed these two chunks of time were the most likely points where presenters panic. Getting those spots under control can make for a smoother delivery.  
 
 
Finally, look forward to seeing some of our Dynamic Dozen in person at AEA's Summer Institute, including Tom Chapel and Bob Kahle! 
New Jobs & RFPs from AEA's Career Center  
What's new this month in the AEA Online Career Center? The following positions have been added recently: 
  • Sr. Manager for Performance Monitoring at National Democratic Institute (Washington, D.C.)
  • Program Officer, Strategy, Measurement, and Evaluation at The Gates Foundation (Seattle) 
  • Senior Evaluator and Evaluation Associate at SmartStart Evaluation and Research (Irvine, Calif.)
  • Research Associate at Research and Evaluation (Atlanta)
  • Chief of Party/Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist at Social Impact (Arlington, Va.)
  • Global Program Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning (MEL) Manager at Oxfam America (Boston)
  • Research Associate II, Evaluation at Harlem Children's Zone, Inc. (New York City)
  • Director of Evaluation and Assessment at University of California, Riverside (Riverside, Calif.)
  • Senior Research Analyst at YMCA of the USA (Chicago)
  • Research Associate at The Center for Victims of Torture (St. Paul, Minn.)
  • Program Evaluation Analyst at Fulton County Schools, Office of Accountability (Atlanta)
  • Evaluation and Organizational Learning Analyst at Peer Health Exchange (San Francisco) 

Descriptions for each of these positions, and many others, are available in AEA's Online Career Center. Job hunting? The Career Center is an outstanding resource for posting your resume or position, or for finding your next employer, contractor, or employee. You can also sign up to receive notifications of new position postings via email or RSS feed.

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AEA is an international professional association of evaluators devoted to the application and exploration of evaluation in all its forms.

 

The association's mission is to:
  • Improve evaluation practices and methods.
  • Increase evaluation use.
  • Promote evaluation as a profession.
  • Support the contribution of evaluation to the generation of theory and knowledge about effective human action.
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