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

TAG | Travel

I am Connie Hoskins, a Research Associate at Vital Research, a research and evaluation consulting firm in the education, health, social services, aging services, and corporate sectors. Although we are based in Los Angeles, we conduct a great deal of our work in other states and nationwide. In one biennial project, we conduct interviews with residents at every long-term care facility in the state of Ohio—33,000 interviews total. We manage these projects – and our field staff – remotely from our office in Los Angeles and have learned some valuable lessons about building teams and meeting client needs from a distance.

Lesson Learned  – Create the illusion that your office is right next door: We work the same hours as our clients and our field staff—6 AM to 2:30 PM for clients on Eastern time and 7 AM to 3:30 PM for clients on Central time—so we are available when they need to reach us. When we receive a call from a client or team member, we drop what we are doing, listen to the question or concern, and immediately work to resolve the issue. Being “in the moment” when communicating with a client or teammate sends the message “we’re in this together” and makes them feel as if we’re not so far away.

Hot Tip – Use collaboration software to connect your team: We have over 50 staff collecting data in the field at any given time and we use www.OneHub.com to collaborate with them. We personalize a Hub with contact information and a project calendar, and use it to share documents and discuss ideas. Fifty team members can’t actively participate in a conference call, but they can actively participate in a virtual network by posting to a message board and reading updates.

Lesson Learned – Value your team’s experiences: We solicit feedback and testimonials from our field staff and share them with the project team in the form of a weekly newsletter. Sharing experiences and lessons learned helps data collectors feel less isolated and fosters teamwork. We also include a data collection progress bar and relevant tips and reminders.

Lesson Learned – Recognize when you need to meet face-to-face: When you are working with a client for the first time, building relationships within a team, or working in a highly political climate, a face-to-face meeting is well worth the time and money. It helps everyone feel more comfortable and provides an opportunity to build rapport and trust.

Rad Resource for Visitors: While visiting Southern California for the AEA conference, check out LA Weekly (www.laweekly.com) to find out about events, restaurants and concerts.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating this week with our colleagues at the Southern California Evaluation Association (SCEA), an AEA affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SCEA 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.

· ·

Greetings. We are Bill Shennum and Kate LaVelle, staff members in the Research Department at Five Acres, a nonprofit child and family services agency located in Altadena, CA and serving the greater Los Angeles area. We work as internal evaluators to support outcome measurement and continuous quality improvement within the organization.

In our roles as internal evaluators we work with agency staff to develop data collection for key processes and outcomes, and assist staff in developing program improvement goals/activities. The quantitative and qualitative data included in our internal evaluation reports also supports other administrative functions including grant-writing, accreditation and program development.

Lessons Learned: In the course of this work we find it useful to incorporate data from our two primary funders, the Los Angeles County Departments of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Mental Health (DMH). We use these data for a variety of purposes, such as to compare our agency’s outcomes to other service providers in LA County, establish benchmarks for child and program outcomes, and provide information on trends in the child welfare field to inform program development. Both DCFS and DMH make extensive statistical information available to the public on their websites.

Rad Resources:

1.       Los Angeles County DCFS (http://dcfs.co.la.ca.us/) provides clickable fact sheets on their “About Us” tab, covering everything from demographics and maltreatment statistics to placement trends and foster care resources. The site has many other reports including Wraparound performance summaries and individual group home compliance reports.

2.       Los Angeles County DMH (http://psbqi.dmh.lacounty.gov/) also makes statistical information of interest to evaluators available through its Program Support Bureau. The “Data Reports and Maps” link accesses countywide and area–specific demographic and performance data for child and adult mental health, including geographic information system mapping of mental health resources.

Southern California evaluators who work in child welfare and/or mental health will find much information of interest on the above sites. More outcomes and reports are added every year, so check back often.

 

Hot Tip: For those of you visiting Anaheim for the 2011 American Evaluation Association conference and interested in going to the beach, check out the surf at Huntington Beach pier in nearby Huntington Beach, about 10 miles from the headquarters hotel for the conference. This is centerpiece of Southern California’s original “Surf City.” It is a perfect place to take a break from the conference and check out the local beach scene.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating this week with our colleagues at the Southern California Evaluation Association (SCEA), an AEA affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SCEA 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.

· ·

We are Leslie Fierro, former CDC ETA and Deanna Rossi, California Breathing asthma program evaluator, and we’d like to share some of the issues that make California’s asthma program unique and some of the resources we’ve used to facilitate evaluation in this context.

California is one of 36 states receiving funds from CDC to implement a comprehensive state asthma program and to develop a five-year strategic evaluation plan.  CDC has put together a team of Evaluation Technical Advisors (ETA) to assist state evaluators in their evaluation activities.

Did You Know?: CDC has created an excellent resource titled, Learning and Growing through Evaluation to guide state asthma programs in their evaluation planning. It builds on the CDC framework for public health evaluation and considers the breadth of activities state asthma programs are engaged in—disease surveillance, partnership building, and public health interventions. Since non-asthma programs also engage in these core public health functions, Learning and Growing through Evaluation would be valuable for a number of chronic disease and environmental health programs.

Rad Resource: You can download Learning and Growing through Evaluation at: http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/program_eval/guide.htm

Did You Know?: The state asthma programs engage a number of stakeholders in designing their evaluations, collecting data, and disseminating evaluation findings. Since asthma is so heavily impacted by environmental factors, non-traditional public health partners are often involved in evaluation activities. In a state as large as California, it is difficult to train and engage partners through in-person meetings. For this reason, California relies heavily on online meeting tools, like GoToMeeting (www.gotomeeting.com).

Hot Tip: We have used GoToMeeting to share documents, to build logic models in real time, and to brainstorm evaluation questions. It even allows the facilitator to give another participant control of their desktop so that note taking duties can be shared during a meeting. In addition, it allows meetings to be recorded, so a facilitator can be less focused on writing everything down and more focused on facilitating the discussion. GoToMeeting has allowed us to bring together stakeholders more than 500 miles away. As an added bonus, GoToMeeting reduces meeting costs and our carbon footprint. Being “green” is important to many Californians, especially those of us working in environmental public health.

Rad Resource:  To make the most of your experience at AEA this year, we would suggest trying to flag down an Evaluation Technical Advisor from CDC’s National Asthma Control Program to pick her/his brain about the work they have done to build evaluation capacity in their program.

Hot Tip: To fully enjoy your stay in beautiful Southern California, we would definitely suggest getting away from the hotel and venturing out to the beach (perhaps exploring the sites at Venice Beach (http://www.venicebeach.com/ ~40 miles from the Hilton Anaheim), the home of the famous Muscle Beach, or the Getty Center (http://www.getty.edu/ ~45 miles from the Hilton Anaheim).

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating this week with our colleagues at the Southern California Evaluation Association (SCEA), an AEA affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SCEA 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! This is Anne Vo from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and John LaVelle from Claremont Graduate University (CGU). We are the Co-directors of the Southern California Evaluation Association (SCEA), a local affiliate of the American Evaluation Association (AEA). Today marks the launch of the SCEA-themed week on aea365 so we will be providing an overview of what you can expect to see this week along with a few tips about some interesting things to do during your visit to Southern California!

Hot Tip – Did You Know: Southern California is a booming locale for evaluation. As of the last census, there were almost 10 million residents in Greater Los Angeles proper. Countless programs, institutions, and agencies exist in Los Angeles. In an effort to capture the diverse landscape of evaluation practice in LA, we put out a call to SCEA members asking them to contribute (1) their thoughts about practicing evaluation in Southern California and (2) ideas about something that is uniquely LA that you might be interested in experiencing during your time here!

Hot Tip – Preview of the Week: This week, you will be hearing from a diverse group of evaluators who highlight a broad range of lessons learned, tips, and rad resources from the various experiences that they have garnered from the evaluations that they conduct. Contributing SCEA members include:

  • Bonnie Richards on Valuing in the Social Services
  • Leslie Fierro & Deanna Rossi on Evaluating State Asthma Programs
  • Bill Shennum & Kate LaVelle on the Multiple Uses of Multiple Data Sources
  • Connie Hoskins on Managing a Project Remotely
  • Kara Crohn on the AEA Annual Conference Fieldtrip and Using Multiple Methods to Check Your Assumptions
  • Celina Chao & Patricia Quinones on Maintaining Organizational Memory (posted on August 11, 2011)

Hot Tips: Southern California has its own hustling and bustling rhythm of life, but we also believe in the importance of balancing work and play. Here are a few ideas of fun things to do during the AEA Conference while you’re visiting! For each, we’ve noted an approximate distance from the Hilton Anaheim, the Headquarters hotel for Evaluation 2011.

Please note that these ideas do not constitute an official endorsement from SCEA.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating this week with our colleagues at the Southern California Evaluation Association (SCEA), an AEA affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SCEA 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.

· ·

Susan Kistler here, AEA’s Executive Director. It’s Saturday, March 12, 2010 and I have a question. How is your conference proposal coming for Evaluation 2011? I can’t wait to see everyone in November in Anaheim!

Hot Tip: Go ahead, submit a proposal. It is a great way to share what you have learned about evaluation planning, data collection methods, reporting, evaluation use, working with stakeholders, values and valuing, the theoretical underpinnings of the field, and tools and techniques. The key is to focus on evaluation, evaluation methodologies, evaluation theories, or running your evaluation business, not on evaluation findings. If you are reporting on findings, use them as context, as evidence of success (or failure) of the evaluation itself, as the basis of an exploration of evaluation use – but not as the primary focus of your proposed presentation.

Hot Tip: You do not need to be an AEA member to submit a conference proposal.

Hot Tip: Having a proposal on the Evaluation 2011 program can help you to build your professional network. You’ll meet attendees at your session with an interest in your area and you’ll find that even non-attendees use the searchable conference program as a type of directory to identify colleagues working on shared issues.

Hot Tip: Friday, March 18, 2011 – this coming Friday – is the proposal submission deadline. While we have been accepting proposals since mid-January, we’ll likely receive over 900 proposals, out of the roughly 1200 total, on Friday. A staff person scans each proposal individually for completeness and sends a confirmation of receipt. Given the calls and emails for assistance on Friday, it is a very busy day. If you submit your proposal even one day early, you’re much more likely to get a rapid confirmation, immediate assistance, and our eternal thanks!

Hot Tip: There is competitively awarded travel assistance available for full-time students http://www.eval.org/eval2011/11students.htm and colleagues working in developing countries or countries in transition http://www.eval.org/eval2011/11international.htm.

Hot Tip: Go to http://www.eval.org/eval2011/default.asp to learn more about the conference and submit a proposal before the Friday, March 18, deadline.

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.

· · ·

My name is Susan Kistler, and I am the Executive Director for the American Evaluation Association. I contribute each Saturday’s aea365 alert. Summer is winding down and I know that over 2500 of you are finalizing your plans for attending AEA’s annual conference this November in San Antonio. Even if you won’t be able to join us in Texas, evaluators are a traveling bunch – from visiting clients to conducting site visits to providing capacity building and training, evaluators are out and about. So, this week I’m sharing three resources that I have found to be invaluable in preparing for travel.

Hot Tip – SeatGuru: SeatGuru provides airlines seating charts for almost all flights on major airlines. You enter an airline and a flight and it shows you the type of plane and then a seat map indicating which seats are good, get mixed reviews, or are bad, including providing information about such things as ending up beside lines to the lavatories or non-reclining seats. I never choose seats on a long flight without a quick check on SeatGuru first. A few years ago, thanks to SeatGuru, my husband and I shared the only pair of seats that had extra legroom and were two-across in coach from the United States to South Korea! These seats didn’t even appear on the airline’s own online seat charts.

Hot Tip – CompareAirlineFees: This site does exactly what you would expect. It provides a chart comparing airline fees (baggage fees, change fees, unaccompanied minor fees) for US-based airlines. While many sites have such charts, and none are always accurate given the rapidly changing landscape of fees, I find the ones here to be most regularly updated and formatted for easy reading.

Hot Tip – TripAdvisor: TripAdvisor is a group-sourced travel website with reviews of hotels and destination activities as well as ideas for what to do (check out the traveler lists). The key to TripAdvisor is to be a smart consumer of the reviews – look for recommendations that have been reviewed by multiple travelers and give more weight to reviews from people who have provided lots of reviews across different places (click on a contributor’s name to see all of her or his reviews).

The above opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the American Evaluation Association. See you in San Antonio!

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 aea365@eval.org.

· ·

Archives

To top