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


We are Sue Hunter, a librarian and the Planning & Evaluation Coordinator with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) Middle Atlantic Region (MAR) ( at New York University, Langone Medical Center and Cindy Olney, Evaluation Specialist with the Outreach Evaluation Resource Center, NN/LM. Funded through the National Library of Medicine, NN/LM is a nationwide program for a network of health sciences libraries and information centers (called “network members”) with the goal of advancing the progress of medicine and improving public health through equal access to health information. The MAR supports network members in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

We embarked on a project of focus groups using Appreciative Inquiry to obtain feedback from network members on the NN/LM MAR program for the purpose of involving them in the MAR’s development of a 5-year contract proposal. Focus groups were conducted by staff who work in the NN/LM MAR program. Due to a short timeline, the focus groups were conducted online using Adobe Connect web conferencing software. The Appreciate Inquiry method was selected due to the format that would allow network members to focus their discussion on what is valuable to them within the realm of the MAR programs and services.

Hot Tip: Appreciative Inquiry is a useful tool for generating affirmative discussions in a focus group. Participants were able to describe peak experiences they had with the MAR program and services, and to pose concrete suggestions based on those experiences for future development in the MAR. We got the exact type of information we needed for our proposal, without a lot of “off-topic” discussion, allowing us to analyze the findings quickly and put them to use. The questions, which generated affirmative discussion, allowed for a comfortable and honest exchange between network members and the staff.

Lesson learned: The focus groups were conducted by the MAR staff. This allowed all staff to be included in the process and staff members obtained immediate feedback about their program areas directly from network members. The interview guide was simple and straightforward, so that even staff with minimal evaluation experience could participate.

Rad Resource: Adobe Connect web conferencing software. We conducted focus groups online using Adobe Connect which has a built in audio recorder. Sound quality is good, and the playback and pause options made transcription fairly easy. Conducting the focus groups online was convenient for the facilitator and participants. Adobe Connect is not a free tool, but one can request a free trial to explore its many options.

This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to Want to learn more from Sue and Cindy? They’ll be presenting as part of the Evaluation 2010 Conference Program, November 10-13 in San Antonio, Texas.

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We are Nichole Stewart and Laura Pryor and we’d like to share a preview of our presentation at the upcoming AEA 2013 conference. Our session, Performance Management to Program Evaluation: Creating a Complimentary Connection, will use a case study of a Los Angeles-based juvenile offender reentry program to demonstrate how “information and knowledge production” can be coordinated for performance management (PM) and program evaluation (PE).

Lessons Learned: There IS a difference!

Distinguishing between PM and PE has historically presented challenges for program directors and the public agencies and non-profit organizations that fund them. Programs have to grapple with day-to-day operations as well as adapting to evolving frameworks for understanding “what works”—from results-based accountability to continuous quality improvement to evidence-based everything. Evaluators are frequently called upon to engage simultaneously in both PM and PE, however the distinctions between the tasks are not always clearly understood or articulated in practice.

Lessons Learned: There IS a connection!

Fortunately, several authors have explored the relationship between PM and PE and outlined how PM and PE can complement one another with regard to data collection and analysis:

  • Information complementarity– Use the same data to answer different questions based on different analyses (Kusek and Rist, 2004).
  • Methodical complementarity– Use similar processes and tools to collect and analyze data and ultimately convert data into actionable information (Nielsen and Ejler, 2008).

Rad Resources


Source: Child Trends, Research-to-Results Brief (January 2011)

Hot Tips:


The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Business, Leadership and Performance (BLP) TIG Week with our colleagues in the BLP AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our BLP TIG 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. Want to learn more from Nichole and Laura? They’ll be presenting as part of the Evaluation 2013 Conference Program, October 16-19 in Washington, DC.



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