AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Erica Roberts

Hello and welcome to the Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation (IPE) TIG Week (November 19-24)! I am Erica Blue Roberts, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, IPE TIG Program Chair, and AEA GEDI alumnus. And I’m Nicole Bowman (Mohican/Lunaape) the IPE TIG Chair. As we approach the Colonial celebration and Federal holiday of Thanksgiving, let us reflect on, redefine our understandings, and redirect our behaviors regarding the Original inhabitants of Turtle Island (North America) and Kukuna Auhy (Mother Earth). Together we can move from cultural appropriation and romanticized notions of the first Thanksgiving, to a cultural appreciation for the ongoing contributions by Indigenous people that isn’t limited by a holiday or season.

The IPE TIG was established in 2006 to give voice and recognition to the Indigenous members of the American Evaluation Association (AEA) and begin to infuse Indigenous evaluation practices into more mainstream evaluation. Indigenous evaluation approaches were developed as culturally-responsive ways of evaluating programs in Indigenous communities. Indigenous evaluation often values and incorporates Indigenous knowledge, recognizes the negative history of evaluation imposed on many Indigenous communities, and respects tribal and data sovereignty. For more information about Indigenous evaluation, look to the work of IPE TIG Founder – Joan France, IPE TIG Founder – Fiona Cram, IPE TIG Chair – Nicky Bowman, and IPE TIG Program Chair – Erica Roberts.

The IPE TIG strives to achieve the following goals to improve evaluation practices and methods:

  • Developing and disseminating knowledge that helps assure that evaluations in which Indigenous people are among the major stakeholders are culturally responsive and respectful of their interests and rights.
  • Creating a venue for Indigenous evaluators and others working in Indigenous contexts to participate in discourse about evaluation models and methods that support Indigenous values, practices, and ways of knowing.
  • Mentoring and emerging evaluators interested in evaluation in various Indigenous contexts.

This week you will get a chance to read about a variety of Indigenous evaluation topics from the TIG Leadership and its members. We chose to blog this week as it is the week of the Thanksgiving holiday, a time when many misconceptions about American Indians and Alaska Natives are shared. We hope that by providing you with an overview of Indigenous evaluation, you may be inspired to look into other ways that Indigenous knowledge can be integrated into mainstream practices and understandings.

Rad Resources:

To learn more about the IPE TIG, please visit our website., become a member, and check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

No More Pranks-Giving:  How the Evaluation Community Can Start Rebuilding Relations with Indigenous Communities

Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee) Native Appropriations website and blog is an interactive forum for discussing representations and contributions of Native peoples.

Rethinking Schools Blog Archives on “Rethinking Thanksgiving:  Myths and Misgivings

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation (IPE) TIG week. All posts this week are contributed by members of the IPE Topical Interest Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hello aea365-ers! Sheila B Robinson here, your Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor with some Hot Tips, Cool Tricks and one really Rad Resource – our AEA Public eLibrary!

Rad Resource: The AEA Public eLibrary, under the “read” menu on our main site at eval.org is a fabulous resource for evaluation-related content. I’ve always been impressed with our association’s generous offering of evaluation resources to members and non-members alike, and the Public eLibrary is one of my favorites.

Hot Tip: Now is a great time to look for your favorite presenter’s materials whether from Evaluation 2017, a recent Coffee Break webinar, AEA Summer Institute, or even an event from years ago. Perhaps you’re just looking for something new to add to your knowledge base or inform your work around a specific evaluation-related topic.

Of the 2276 current entries, over 30 have been added since Evaluation 2017, and materials are added year-round.

Hotter Tip: Advanced search options. Try searching using advanced search options which allows you to search for materials by:

  • term / keyword / phrase
  • posted since date or posted before date
  • author’s first or last name
  • company name or email address
  • specific tags or keyword
  • event
  • topical interest group (TIG)

Cool Trick: Author’s names are hyperlinks to their profiles where you can often see what they do, where they work, and access any other other materials they have contributed to the library.

Cooler Trick: Since users can create their own tags, not all of the conference-related content is necessarily in one category. Try searching “AEA 2017” along with “Evaluation 2017” and even “#Eval17.”

Lesson Learned: In this library, no one will ask you to be quiet, there are no late fees, and food and drink are welcome all the time!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hello! We are Libby Smith and Levi Roth. We are both Project Managers at the Applied Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. We recently wrapped up work on the largest project of our professional lives. The INTERFACE Project included all 16 Wisconsin Technical Colleges and as you can guess each college had a diverse project team with different communication needs. This 4-year grant required constant communication with project teams on a variety of levels whether it was communicating data requirements, project updates, documentation requests, etc. We learned a lot about effective communication with a large stakeholder community and we want to share some hot tips we have learned with you!

Hot Tips:

  • Webinars and Conference Calls are your friends. With stakeholders in every corner of the state, holding regular meetings virtually was critical to ensuring everyone was on the same page. We met twice yearly face-to-face, but taking the time to communicate information “in-person” via webinars and conference calls helped build relationships and ensured everyone had an opportunity to ask questions about complicated data gathering guidelines. This way we could answer the question for the entire group in a concise manner, plus we were able to record and archive our conversations.
  • FAQs and standardized templates are powerful tools. We quickly realized how important it was to create a standardized way of doing things that is adopted by everyone involved. When working with a variety of stakeholders they may be reporting the same information but collecting it in different ways. Templates were a necessity and FAQ’s cleared up questions quickly. You help alleviate confusion with a common document that helps walk through questions or issues without filling up your email inbox.
  • Build relationships with your clients. This idea may seem obvious, but in our busy schedules can often be overlooked. In conjunction with our regularly scheduled webinars and conference calls, we made it a priority to also meet with our stakeholders at their college twice a year. We felt like these meetings were so crucial to building and maintaining healthy client relationships over the course of the project. It improved buy-in and commitment. Your clients might also begin to view your webinars and conference calls as welcomed constructive conversations instead of nuisances.

These are just a few hot tips we wanted to share to help improve other’s client communications or at the very least, have you start thinking about the level of effective communication you have with your clients. Let us know if you have any additional hot tips for effective communication!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week with our colleagues in the Wisconsin statewide AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hello! I am Dawn Helmrich, Director of Research and Evaluation at United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. I work with over 100 nonprofit programs in a four county area around program evaluation. I train nonprofit organizations on how to create and implement logic models, how to design evaluation plans and what outcomes measures work best for their organization to demonstrate impact, but also to improve program quality and program services provided to the community.

Over the past 10 years the demand for outcomes evaluation has grown at a rapid speed. During the recession in 2008, programs were asked by funders to diversify their funding in an effort to sustain programs. Many funding sources had to pull back money, leaving organization to scrabble for dollars. While this was happening, funders began to seek greater accountability from organizations, while also providing less money and little to no training on how to better provide that accountability.

From 2008 to present day funders don’t always recognize the burden on organizations to provide quality level data and analysis. Funders themselves often don’t take into account that organizations are often being funded by upwards of 5 different funding sources all looking for different things. This problem is two-fold, an organizational capacity issue and a funder’s issue.

Hot Tips:

It is important to recognize capacity as a real and relevant issue for organizations. Oftentimes, evaluation is put on the back burner and/or is being done by someone as an “other duties as assigned” task. There are some very simple things that can be done to rectify this situation.

  • First, encourage your agency to identify whose role will include providing evaluation and add a few sentences to the job description. This alerts the person applying for the job that program evaluation is a component of their job and it helps the agency get the right person in the door.
  • Second, talk to your local Universities and find out what kind of evaluation classes they offer for Human Service disciplines. We know that students majoring in sociology, social work, psychology and other human service disciplines often find themselves seeking work in nonprofits. If these disciplines are provided with the foundations in program evaluation both the student and the hiring organization will have an increased chance to improve capacity.
  • Finally, talk with funders about working with each other to reduce the burden on overlapping funding. If funders can ask for the same accountability measures and/or provide extra training and technical assistance, we can help increase the quality of data and information that is being collected.

Accountability standards and practices are not going away anytime soon. Most evaluation practitioners are concerned about the quality of information being provided. By increasing the capacity of organizations and helping funders understand the need for consistency, we can improve the overall impact nonprofits have on their community.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week with our colleagues in the Wisconsin statewide AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hi! My name is Monique Liston, Chief Strategic Officer at Ubuntu Research and Evaluation. I am a race liberation strategist and evaluator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

As 2016 came to a close, I found myself at a professional crossroads, nearing the end of writing my dissertation and reevaluating my work prospects. I reached out to several friends and colleagues who have always held my professional identity in high regard to contemplate my next moves. Many people offered ideas of positions within institutions such as universities, foundations, or nonprofits that would be opening soon or could possibly be created to nurture my skill set.

However, the timing for these opportunities did not coincide with my needs. I took a leap of faith and decided to build my own consulting firm. I decided that I wanted to build a space for research and evaluation that celebrated Black Women as having unique professional skillsets, being knowledge creators celebrating what Patricia Hill Collins termed “Afrocentric Feminist Epistemology”, and deserving to be compensated fully for what they bring to the table. Here are three hot tips for supporting a space for Black women to direct and design evaluation.

Hot Tips:

  • Meditate on Dr. Vincent J. Harding’s The Vocation of the Black Scholar. There are many Black women who have written about the unique contributions that Black scholars provide to scholastic endeavors. However, Harding’s article very clears out the tensions that reside between Black liberation ideologies and the work of scholars in the academy. As evaluators, we have a responsibility to consider how we can uplift beloved community through our evaluation practice.
  • Embed written reflection during every formal opportunity.We know that Black women’s voices are often marginalized in professional spaces. Joan Morgan explains one of the reasons this happens, particularly around practitioners is because of the “superwoman complex”. Black women, being too busy doing, and not spending enough time processing their work through written reflection. To combat that, all of us at Ubuntu are responsible for writing monthly for our blog.
  • Build intentional spaces for decompression.Last, but of course, not least, we spend considerable time in our meeting spaces for decompression. We do verbal, written, and artistic check-ins to support one another. We allow others to witness our intentionality around decompressing white supremacist thinking, microaggressions, and misogynoir. We develop a short decompression guide — for laughs — but it holds significant truths to the way we work at Ubuntu!

A year later, I am reflecting on what this organization – Ubuntu Research and Evaluation – has become. We are freedom fighters for hire. We use frameworks of Building Beloved Community and Black Liberation to define our work. We are serving as an intellectual vanguard for evaluating programs and projects that aim to improve the outcomes of Black children and families.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week with our colleagues in the Wisconsin statewide AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Greetings! I’m Rose Hennessy, Adjunct Professor in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare and a Doctoral Student at the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, both at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In teaching Program Evaluation to MSW students, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with Jennifer Grove and Mo Lewis at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC).

In the short duration of a semester, it can be difficult to provide students the opportunity to practice engaging with stakeholders and translate evaluation findings. In conjunction with NSVRC staff, we proactively identified recent research articles of interest for sexual violence prevention practitioners. Busy professionals frequently do not have time or access to recent publications, but in academia we can play a role in getting current research out in digestible ways! Students are assigned articles and asked to create infographics of key themes and implications to meet stakeholder needs.

Lessons Learned:

  • Students learn a new technology best with hands-on learning. A free infographic program is taught to the class in a computer lab where they can learn and practice. Walking through skills step-by-step with a guided handout promotes a new skill and program.
  • Assignment scaffolding models the stakeholder process. Four different assignments are used for the project, allowing for feedback, revisions, and reflection. Students review the NSVRC website for content, design, and values. They critique their article to pull content specific to the stakeholder, create and present the infographic, and use class feedback to reflect and create revisions.
  • Presenting infographics allows for shared learning of evaluation concepts. Students review creative ways to share qualitative and quantitative findings, examine different study designs, discuss how to present null findings, explore various visualization options, and gain experience utilizing critical feedback from peers.
  • More time is needed to promote culturally responsive evaluation. Research with diverse populations was intentionally chosen for review, but many students lack prior experience translating findings across cultures. Providing readings to assist students, setting up ground rules, and allowing more time for reflection and discussion is necessary to help students process evaluation results in a culturally-responsive manner. Conversations also highlighted the need to differentiate between collaborative approaches and culturally-responsive evaluation, and new readings have been identified for future courses.

As an instructor, a collaborative project with NSVRC provides students the opportunity for learning with real-world applications. There was high motivation for the creation of projects that can be used by a national leader in the field, and students leave the class with new skills in the translation of research, study design, visualization, and dissemination!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week with our colleagues in the Wisconsin statewide AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hello! My name is Libby Smith, I work at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where I am fortunate enough to work in evaluation in multiple capacities. Today I’d like to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned from being a member of ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! First, Nicole Robinson and the rest of the executive board are tireless promoters of our mission both in and outside of our state. They have truly taught me the value of building connections across long distances and being part of a network that shares a common goal. Second, I have learned that infusing social justice into my work is not optional or occasional.

Lessons Learned:

From participating in webinars on using racial equity in evaluation to participating in last spring’s Social Justice and Evaluation Conference, the professional development I have received as a member has been consistent, effective, and incredibly valuable to my growth as an evaluator. I was honored to be asked to present an Eval 101 session at the spring conference, but the lessons learned through listening to the people who attended my session were incredibly valuable.  The organization’s commitment to promoting social justice within evaluation sets it apart from the other groups that I belong to.

My connection to ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! led to the most professionally satisfying work of my career. In 2015, I began collaborating with the Annie E. Casey Foundation as they established the Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) program, an effort to increase the number of underrepresented evaluators of color, a mission directly aligned with our goals. Through our Graduate Certificate in Evaluation Studies, we provide evaluation training to the early-career scholars in the LEEAD program. I am so proud of the work that we are doing, knowing that we are exponentially expanding our ability to bring change to the field of evaluation and to the communities we work in as evaluators.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week with our colleagues in the Wisconsin statewide AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hi! We are Nicole Robinson, Emily Connors, Kate Westaby, Tiffine Cobb, and Elise Ahn and we’re board members of ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc., the Wisconsin statewide AEA affiliate. As an affiliate and professional development collaborative of Wisconsin-based evaluators, we have three goals:

  • To promote the science of evaluation
  • Provide networking and capacity building opportunities
  • Develop a pipeline of evaluators from underrepresented groups

In the past few years we have focused on field building initiatives centered around building the capacity of evaluators to incorporate culturally responsive evaluation (CRE) and social justice into their practice. We see this goal as paramount to create a thriving field ready to respond to the evaluation needs of a multicultural world. This past year, during our flagship event, the Social Justice & Evaluation conference, is where we promoted this work. We provided CRE 101 sessions in addition to sessions helping evaluators address “isms” during the evaluation process from start to finish, how to assess what the current political climate can impact evaluation and the people we serve, or how social justice can be infused into practices such as results-based accountability.

Lessons Learned:

We recently administered a survey to Wisconsin evaluators and asked them about how much they use CRE. The full results will be shared in the future, but we can share a couple points for discussion. For example, 57% of evaluators who responded to the survey have never reviewed AEA’s statement on cultural competence and 37% had no formal training on cultural competence. The open-ended responses provided a richer picture of evaluation in Wisconsin. While we are still analyzing this data, we wanted to share one quote that captures the complexity of this discussion, linking the absence of CRE to stagnant outcomes among other areas:

“It is all about power and money. The same folks are getting the same grants or contracts and conduct evaluations in the same way. It isn’t rocket science why some of the same chronic outcomes and poor quality of life has not changed. Evaluation and research studies need to be built differently by different people. If we keep producing basically the same monolithic group of academics how will things ever change? This is embedded in the systems and institutions of education, policy, procurement, political, and monetary practices. People who educate the next generation of academics and award contracts, grants, keynotes, or presidential sessions MUST be held accountable for structurally ensuring and requiring diversity in curricular content, human resources, funding priorities, contract/grant awards, keynotes, publications, etc. or things won’t change.”

Stayed tuned for more this week from our Wisconsin evaluators!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week with our colleagues in the Wisconsin statewide AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Greetings dear aea365 readers! I’m Sheila B Robinson, aea365 Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor. Today we close Evaluation 2017 and wrap up another extraordinary experience for conference-goers — and not just those who tirelessly traversed the labyrinthian walkways of the Marriott Wardman, but also those who live-streamed sessions from across the globe, and who both shared and consumed the tremendous wealth of collective learning from hundreds of esteemed evaluation colleagues on social media platforms.

Hot Tip: If you are not yet tweeting, please consider this as one platform for serious professional learning and networking. I’ve kept a list of over 550 evaluators on Twitter (and I’m certain there are many, many more out there). If you’re concerned about having to sift through what today’s pop culture celebrity is having for breakfast to get to the content you want, think again. YOU choose* you what you see by carefully selecting who to follow. Interested yet? Look for the many aea365 posts contributed by our AEA Community Manager, Jayne Corso, with great tips, tricks, and how-tos.

Cool Trick: Did you present a session this year? Want t0 extend your reach and share your content? Please post something – a handout, document, other relevant material – in the AEA Public eLibrary (it’s under “Read” on the main website menu) so that others can continue to learn from you.

Cooler trick: Did you present OR attend a great session this year? Please consider sharing your learning in an aea365 post! It’s easy – just a few paragraphs and you’ve got it! Our max word count is 500, and other contribution guidelines are here.

Hottest Tip of All Time**: If you have not yet attended an AEA Annual Conference, either in-person or virtually, please do! Ask anyone who has attended. I’ve yet to encounter someone who hasn’t felt it was worth every penny. The sessions, the networking, the socializing…meeting not only fellow evaluators, but also friends, and to many of us in a sense, family. After all, AEA is “home” for so many of us. Might it become your home as well?

A brief message from your blog curator: I am so grateful for all who approached me this week to tell me how much they enjoy and appreciate this daily blog, and I feel indebted to the friends who did outreach work for me by fervently encouraging others to contribute. All kudos belong to the hundreds of authors who have contributed over the years to make this the fabulous evaluation learning resource that it is. 

-Sheila

*OK, there are a few promoted ad tweets you’ll see, but not too many, so don’t let that sway you.

**And I would never in a million years exaggerate. 😉

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hi my name is Jayne Corso and I am the Community Manager for AEA. Evaluation 2017 officially kicked-off yesterday! And, we had a great start with the opening plenary session from AEA president Kathy Newcomer. In her presentation, Kathy discussed the challenges evaluators are facing and how we can overcome those challenges to push evaluation and the evaluation profession forward.

Looking at the twitter response on #Eval17, her message was heard loud and clear. I want to share just a few of the conversations that were taking place online.

We look forward to more great plenary sessions! Keep tweeting.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on theaea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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