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Jul/17

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LAWG Week: EvalAction 2017 by Brian Yoder

My name is Brian Yoder, and I am the Director of Assessment, Evaluation, and Institutional Research at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). I also serve as chair of EvalAction 2017, which is co-sponsored by the American Evaluation Association (AEA), Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) and Washington Evaluations (WE). This initiative coordinates AEA members attending the conference in Washington, D.C. to visit the office of their congressional representative to discuss the value of evaluation in government and to drop off a packet of materials created by EPTF and AEA.

The idea of engaging congressional members in evaluation comes from six years ago when I was working as a temporary civil servant as evaluation manger in the education office of a science and technology focused federal agency. I was charged with providing subject matter expertise for a data system that tracks the agency’s education investments, nationally; and developing capacity to evaluate national education programs. Working for this agency, I found the guidance put out by AEA’s Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) useful to share with colleagues. I would share the documents to help explain the merits of program evaluation, and I believed that government evaluation could be improved by agencies following the program evaluation guidance of AEA and the EPTF.

I was also active in Washington Evaluators, the local Washington, D.C. AEA affiliate which hosts monthly brownbag sessions on a variety of evaluation topics important to government that were often well attended by staff from federal agencies, but staff from congressional offices never attended. I thought there should be a way to engage congressional offices in discussions of the value of evaluation in government, but living in D.C. didn’t provide many opportunities. Visits to congressional offices by D.C. residents likely would be ignored and visits by civil servants were discouraged. However, if congressional offices were visited by residents they serve, the visitors would have the opportunity to speak with congressional staffers about evaluation and promote AEA’s principles of evaluation.

When I learned that the 2013 AEA conference would be in Washington, D.C. I approached AEA’s executive director with the idea of WE working with EPTF to coordinate AEA members coming to Washington, D.C. to visit the office of their congressional representative. After several meetings to discuss the scope of the initiative, Evaluators Visit Capitol Hill, as it was called at the time, was launched in the summer of 2013. In the fall of 2013, despite a government shut-down, a total of 69 AEA members from 31 states and the District of Columbia participated in the initiative. The promotion of quality evaluation and evidence-based policy making in government is more important than ever.

Rad Resource: Want to make a difference? For more information visit, visit our EvalAction registration page.

We’re looking forward to November and the Evaluation 2017 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

Hi, I’m Giovanni Dazzo, Program Committee Chair for Washington Evaluators (WE) and Chair of the Local Arrangements Working Group for Evaluation 2017.

Last year at Evaluation 2016 in Atlanta, we learned that the Atlanta-area Evaluation Association (AaEA) piloted a pro bono evaluation program. This program connects AaEA members with nonprofits in their area by offering in-kind program planning and evaluation services. Many professional associations also have similar groups, such as the American Statistical Association’s Statistics Without Borders program, which connects statisticians that can provide pro bono services in statistics and data science to organizations that may not have access to these resources.

In the spirit of the Evaluation 2017 theme, ‘From Learning to Action’, Washington Evaluators would like to continue building on the momentum of AeEA’s great program with a new initiative for this year’s conference: Evaluation Without Borders.

This pilot initiative seeks to connect conference attendees with local community-based organizations in need of program planning, measurement and evaluation services. While conferences, and evaluation research, can often be extractive in nature, this effort aims to connect conference-goers in a way where they can meaningfully connect and give back to the Washington, DC community.

In line with AEA’s goals, we hope to not only create opportunities where local nonprofits can begin to build their knowledge and skills to engage in evaluation, but to also create opportunities where evaluators can learn more about Washington, DC and the extraordinary work of those contributing to its vibrant communities.

Rad Resources:

Why not take an extra day off from work and get involved? We’ve created a form on the WE website for those interested in volunteering. Just let us know a bit about your professional experience, program planning and evaluation skills, and volunteer interests. We’ll be scheduling pro bono consultations for November 6-7, but do let us know if you’re interested in volunteering the weeks before or after the conference. We’ll then start the volunteer matching process, so you have enough time to plan your trip for Evaluation 2017.

We’re looking forward to November and the Evaluation 2017 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

Hello! I’m Jonathan Jones, co-chair of the AEA Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). As the LAWG is responsible for mobilizing local expertise and resources to enhance the annual AEA conference, a big focus of our volunteer work is ensuring that international attendees feel welcomed to the conference and to the Washington, DC area. The LAWG is undertaking a number of tasks on this front that we want to share with you.

Hot Tip: Consider participating in the International Buddy Program. This is an excellent program that connects US-based evaluators with international evaluators to share experiences and ensure that our international participants feel welcomed at the conference. Please visit the conference website if you are interested in participating in the program for AEA 2017. (Thank you to Michelle Tarsilla, who has managed this program for many years).

Hot Tip: Have you attended the annual AEA silent auction? If not, you are really missing out! The proceeds go towards supporting evaluators from developing countries to attend the conference. Last year, AEA was able to support 5 international participants! We want to do even better this year by launching an initiative for corporate sponsorship of the silent auction. If you are interested in learning more about this initiative, including how your company might support the silent auction, please contact Jonathan Jones (jonathanjonesjdj@gmail.com). (And, thank you to Hubert Palmer who has managed the silent auction for many years).

Rad Resources:

  • The LAWG is also working on a number of other initiatives, such as organized tours and transportation from the airport for international attendees. If you’re an international attendee, please let us know your expected arrival time on this form. We’ll then see if one of our LAWG volunteers can meet you at the airport, or connect those arriving at the same time so you can share the cost of a taxi.
  • The LAWG’s ‘Welcome to Washington DC’ committee is busy preparing a number of resources to help ensure that out-of-town participants have a great experience in Washington, DC. In addition to our local resource guide, we will also have an ‘Ask me about D.C.’ table set up near the registration area of the conference. If you know the Washington, DC area well and are interested in volunteering at the table for a 2-hour time slot, please fill out our volunteer interest form.

The LAWG is excited to welcome all AEA 2017 participants to our wonderful city during November 6-11!

We’re looking forward to November and the Evaluation 2017 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

Hello! I am Hilary Cook, a sociologist and member of the Washington Evaluators Program Committee. I am excited to organize group tours during AEA’s Evaluation 2017, so conference attendees can meet each other and experience some of the amazing museums and institutions that DC has to offer! There are also useful links that may be of interest for individuals to organize museum visits on their own.

Rad Resource: Organized Group Tours

The LAWG will be setting up group tours of 15-20 people at several places. Tour times may change and will be scheduled to avoid conflicts with Evaluation 2017 concurrent sessions. If you are interested in joining a group tour, please SIGN UP so I can gauge interest and schedule tours as the time gets closer. Once you sign up for a given tour, I will keep you posted about the time and date! Here is a preliminary group tour schedule. All of these places can also be visited independently on your own schedule as well.

Rad Resource:

  • Group tour of the Hirshhorn Museum of contemporary art and culture on November 6 at 10:30 AM.
  • Group tour of the Postal Museum on November 6 at 11:00 AM.
  • Group tour of the Renwick Gallery of contemporary craft and decorative art November 6 at 10:30 AM.
  • Group tour of the National Portrait Gallery, which has both classic presidential portraits and wild installation pieces, on November 7 at 6:00 PM.
  • NPR Headquarters on November 11 at 3:00 PM.

Please sign up to receive more information about group tours as the schedule is finalized!

Hot Tips: Suggestions for Independent Visits

There so many museums and institutions to visit in DC. Here are links to some of the public places that may be of particular interest.

Every museum that is part of the Smithsonian Institution has free access. Check out the website to plan your visit to any of the 19 museums, gardens, or the zoo while you are in town! The newest SI museum, the National Museum of African American History & Culture, is wonderful if you can land tickets! Timed entry passes for November will likely open late in July or early August, so conference attendees should keep an eye out for that on the website, and be aware that these free tickets go quickly! Please click on the link to learn about how to get timed entry tickets to this amazing museum. The National Archives is free to visit, although tickets can also be reserved online for a nominal fee.

There are also plenty of non-public museums and institutions that visitors may find interesting. Please feel free to make suggestions in the comments to your fellow Evaluation 2017 attendees on your favorite places to visit in DC!

We’re looking forward to November and the Evaluation 2017 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

I’m Patricia Moore Shaffer, Deputy Director for Research & Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts and Communications Chair for Washington Evaluators (WE). I’m excited to welcome you to Washington, DC, for the American Evaluation Association conference this November. Our city offers many interesting diversions, including arts and cultural destinations and outdoor experiences. Plan to arrive a day early or extend your visit by a day to take advantage of some of the Washington, DC, area’s bountiful attractions. Here are some of the city’s many attractions that might entice you to stay that extra day.

Hot Tips: Suggestions for Independent Visits

We think of Washington, DC, as a city of memorials and museums, but there are plenty of opportunities for stunningly beautiful urban hikes and nature walks. If you want an outdoors experience in the heart of the nation’s capital, Rock Creek Park has over 32 miles of hiking trails and paths to explore. After visiting the John F. Kennedy gravesite and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, walk up to the Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s former home, for a stunning vista of downtown Washington, DC. Great Falls is my go-to hiking destination in the Washington, DC, area. Early November is a perfect time to enjoy the late fall colors and the cooler temperatures on the trails. If you’re an experienced hiker, try the Billy Goal Trail with nearly a mile of fun rock-hopping and wonderful views of the Potomac River.

One of the premier performing arts centers in the nation is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Tony Award-winning musical, The Book of Mormon, is scheduled during Evaluation 2017, but if musicals aren’t your taste, you’re sure to find other options. Check out the free performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage every evening at 6pm. The Kennedy Center is accessible via a free shuttle from the Foggy Bottom Metro Station. Other performing arts companies and venues, including Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Arena Stage, Shakespeare Theatre Company, and Ford’s Theatre, round out DC’s cultural offerings.

Washington, DC, is rich in museums of every type. Most of the national museums, including the Smithsonian and the National Gallery, offer free admission. Watch this week for an upcoming post by Hilary Cook about organized group tours during Evaluation 2017 to some of the city’s premier museums.

There are so many more attractions in Washington, DC, than can be described in a short post. For more information on transportation to the conference site and nearby restaurants, please visit the Evaluation 2017 local resource guide on the WE website.

Safe travels!

We’re looking forward to November and the Evaluation 2017 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

As the American Evaluation Association’s 2017 conference returns to Washington, DC, this fall, on behalf of the Washington Evaluators affiliate allow me to welcome you to DC for #Eval17!  I am Nick Hart, current president of Washington Evaluators, AEA’s DC-based affiliate.

Washington Evaluators launched in 1984 and has grown to more than 300 local evaluators today. Our goal is to strengthen the evaluation community in the Washington, DC area. We pride ourselves on having a diverse representation of government, non-profit, academic, and independent evaluators that comprise our membership.

This year our membership worked to produce a new strategic plan to ensure the services and professional development opportunities offered truly serve our community. We now have four key strategic goals: strengthen the sustainability of the evaluation community; enhance evaluation relationships and interactions; support individual evaluators’ professional development needs; and ensure strong administration of the organization. Each of these four strategic goals is a core component of the Washington Evaluators mission. In implementing our ambitious strategic plan, Washington Evaluators is working to create more opportunities to engage new evaluation professionals, further the professional development of long-time evaluation professionals, and offer the 30+ years of experience of our evaluation organization to other communities of practice throughout the country.

As the seat of the United States government, Washington, DC is perhaps best known for its influence in evaluation policy. But beyond the government, DC is home to leading evaluation organizations and the brightest evaluation minds in the U.S.  Building on this broad evaluation expertise, as we prepare for an exciting #Eval17 this fall, over the course of this week on AEA365 we will be showcasing local resources, sites to visit, volunteer opportunities, a major advocacy event on Capitol Hill, and other tips for your trip to DC.

Rad Resource:  Follow Washington Evaluators on Twitter or check out our website to learn more about the many opportunities available in the DC area.  Many of our events are open to non-members as we support the entire DC evaluation community.

Lesson Learned:  Book your travel for the conference early. There are three airports in close proximity to DC (Dulles, Reagan, and Baltimore).  From any of these airports, the conference site is just a short Uber ride away.  All are also reachable by DC’s public transit options.

Hot Tip:  In addition to the resources we will share in advance of the conference, Washington, DC has an excellent tourism website that explains the sites to see in America’s Front Yard, provides tips on accessing the many free museums, and explains the neighborhoods in the city.

Get excited for a great conference this fall. We look forward to seeing you in DC!

We’re looking forward to November and the Evaluation 2017 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

Hi there! My name is Bemene Piaro. I am an epidemiologist, a longtime resident of the Greater Atlanta area, and peace and social justice activist. Atlanta is known for promoting change through social justice.

Rad Resource: Social Justice Opportunities. Whenever Georgia has an execution scheduled, one can elect to protest the death penalty at the state capital with Georgians For an Alternative to the Death Penalty (GFADP) and a host of other organizations; or on any Wednesday, one can protest war or any number of issues he or she is passionate about on Moreland Avenue and Ponce de Leon with the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition. The Health Law Partnership (HeLP) offers legal services for clients of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta who would otherwise be unable to afford a lawyer. Similar to HeLP, the Georgia Justice Project and the Southern Center for Human Rights provide legal services free of charge to those in the prison system or facing criminal charges and their families. A host of other nonprofits carry out direct services as well as legislative advocacy aspects, including, Lost-N-Found Youth, which advocates for homeless LGBT youth, and the Central Outreach and Advocacy Center, which provides a wide variety of services to homeless men and women in addition to advocating around key legislative issues which they believe impact homelessness. While many of these organizations regularly write about their work and produce facts about their fields only HeLP and the Lost-N-Found Youth showcase quantitative assessments of their impact on their websites.

Questions to Ponder: How might evaluations inform us about the unique roles peace and justice organizations serve in addressing health determinants in a quantifiable way?

Rad Resources: Atlanta AEA affiliate. The Atlanta affiliate of the American Evaluation Association recently piloted a pro-bono evaluation program, which could aid peace and justice focused non-profits ready to explore evaluation. For more information visit: http://atl-eval.org/get-involved-with-aaea/pro-bono-evaluation/.

Rad Resources: The Health Law Partnership (HeLP)’s website is a good resource for nonprofits trying to understand what evaluation could mean for them. Check out this link to learn more: https://healthlawpartnership.org/evaluation__research/program_evaluation/.

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

Hello! We are Kate Hurd and Meenoo Mishra, local Atlanta public health consultants and lovers of good food! We’re excited to welcome you to Atlanta for the American Evaluation Association conference in October. Our city offers many exciting experiences and culinary delights. In this blog, we highlight our favorite neighborhoods in Atlanta and the great food you can find here.

Hot Tips: Atlanta is home to many unique neighborhood where you can find a range of delicious options. One favorite neighborhood for good ethnic eats is Buford Highway. More of a long stretch of road than a neighborhood, both sides of the highway are full of global favorites such as Mexican, Korean, Malaysian, Chinese, and Vietnamese restaurants. This is a bit of a drive, but if you have a car we recommend you don’t miss out! Some favorite picks are:

Krog Street Market in Inman Park is another fun and tasty option. It’s a collection of local food stalls, restaurants, and retail shops in a beautiful 1920s warehouse. Notable restaurants are Gu’s Dumplings, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, and Yalla for Mediterranean food. Krog Street Market is a short Uber ride away from the conference and a guaranteed good time!

There are a variety of dining options available downtown near the conference site. With more than 300 restaurants in the area, there truly is something for everyone. Here are some of our favorites!

A 15-minute walk from the conference will put you at Sweet Auburn Curb Market in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. Steeped in history, The Curb Market includes produce and meat merchants, a full service bakery, a bookstore, pharmacy, and eleven eateries that includes barbeque and arepas!

Finally, Ponce City Market is a newly restored historic building located in Old Fourth Ward. It is a mixed-use development with several restaurants, a food hall, as well as boutiques and retail shops. Ponce City Market is located 1.5 miles away from the North Avenue Marta Station and there is a free shuttle bus to take you from Marta to the market.

Bon Appetit!

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

Hi, we are Omoshalewa Bamkole and Natalie Taylor, student members of the Atlanta-area Evaluation Association and the Local Affiliate Working Group. This post is designed to share our perspective on Atlanta, some downtown eats, and experiences. Since you’ll be an Atlantan for the duration of the conference, it’s important for you to understand some idiosyncrasies that make this city unique. We hope this will give you a sneak peek of what’s to come when you visit Atlanta this October.

Hot Tip: “The Perimeter.” Whether you’re inside or outside the perimeter can be the deciding factor in understanding the local geography. Interstate 285 is the major highway that circles the metropolitan area of Atlanta, and serves as a boundary line for most locals. If you’re an Atlanta native, being “inside the perimeter” (ITP) or “outside the perimeter” (OTP) will make for huge differences in lifestyle. Being ITP may be for those who like the fast paced nature of the city and easy access to a variety of arts and cultural centers, while being OTP lends itself to a more family-friendly and suburban environment.

Hot Tip: Atlanta Neighborhoods. While in the ATL, you’ll be blown away by the unique, eclectic neighborhoods sprawling throughout the region. Check out the giant skull at the Vortex in Little Five Points. Visit the birthsite of Martin Luther King Jr. in Sweet Auburn, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If possible, venture to the historical Cabbagetown District and see a revitalized former textile mill community.

Fun Facts:

Atlanta Firsts

 Must See’s in Atlanta

  • Don’t miss out on some delicious Southern cooking. Make your reservation at Southern Elements today, and try recipes from Charleston all the way to the Mississippi Gulf.
  • Visit the National Center for Civil and Human Rights to learn about movements of the past and present-day, and the role you can play in achieving equality for all!
  • Get up close to the latest breaking global news at the CNN Center! Take the “Inside CNN Studio Tour” for an exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime view of their global headquarters.
  • Look no further for a place to quench your thirst and begin your quest for Coke’s famous secret recipe than at the World of Coca-Cola!
  • Experience Atlanta railways, trails, parks, housing, and artsy green spaces by foot or bike along the Beltline!

 

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

Welcome to Atlanta! We are Elizabeth Runkle, a Senior Consultant and Regional Manager with the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and Dayna S. Alexander, Evaluation Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Division of Reproductive Health (DRH).

Atlanta has a wide variety of nonprofits from large international relief organizations to small arts focused community based organizations. In 2015, the Atlanta Metro Area had four of the top 20 nonprofit organizations in the country including two in downtown Atlanta – the Boys and Girls Club National Headquarters and the American Cancer Society. Atlanta is also home to several nationally known place-based collaborations between nonprofits, private and public partners. Located in Atlanta’s historic Mechanicsville neighborhood, Dunbar Learning Center brings together several nonprofits in one location that focus on children birth to 5th grade along with their parents. This collaboration has brought together the Annie E Casey Foundation’s Civic Site, Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Center, the Center for Working Families, Westside Works and many others. Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood has brought funders, nonprofits, government and private partners together to change the landscape and economics of this neighborhood.

Hot tips, lessons learned, and rad resources for those interested in conducting evaluation work with nonprofits include:

Hot Tip #1: Develop a realistic timeline. Because nonprofit settings have many competing priorities and some staff have limited knowledge of evaluation, it is vital to develop a timeline for evaluation tasks. This helps with accountability, organizing the work, and alleviates stress for both the evaluator and the nonprofit.

Hot Tip #2: Develop evaluation questions based on resources and priorities. The evaluator and nonprofit staff members should develop clear evaluation questions and prioritize them according to the evaluation purpose and the resources available. 

Lessons Learned: Communicate effectively and efficiently with the nonprofit team. Provide weekly updates with the nonprofit staff members about the status of assigned tasks, challenges, and their needs. An open line of communication will help build trust, improve teamwork, and help reach consensus. 

Lessons Learned: Be flexible. When working with nonprofits it is important to adapt to new priorities and respond quickly. This demonstrates to nonprofit staff members that you are committed to the assigned project and the evaluation will be successfully conducted.

Rad Resource:

Georgia Center for Nonprofits works to build thriving communities by helping nonprofits succeed. through a powerful mix of advocacy, solutions for nonprofit effectiveness, and insight building tools, GCN provides nonprofits, board members and donors with the tools they need to strengthen organizations that make a difference on important causes throughout Georgia.

 

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

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