Beverly Parsons on Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future and Welcome to Evaluation 2014!

Hi everyone! I’m Beverly Parsons, 2014 AEA president. I’m also executive director of InSites, a research, evaluation, and planning organization.

Evaluation 2014 is finally here! I’d like to kick off this week of conference-focused AEA365 posts by highlighting the conference theme, Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future. The graphic summarizes the key message. It was created by our fabulous conference chair, Matt Keene, and his amazing friend and colleague, Chris Metzner. Parsons 1

Here’s the basic idea.

Behind the “Visionary Evaluation Kaleidoscope” is a representation of a desired version of the Denver area—one in which natural and human systems are in a sustainable balance.

By thinking in terms of a desired future, evaluators are not trying to predict the future. Rather, having a picture in one’s mind of a desired future encourages us to use our professional capacities and personal commitments differently. Our world is experiencing sobering trend lines of unjust social conditions. They may be in areas such as health, education, and the economy. They may be related to diminishing natural resources such as clear air and water. We want to use evaluation to shift those trend lines in the direction of a sustainable and equitable future for many generations to come.

Here’s where Visionary Evaluation comes into play.

Visionary evaluation is not a particular method but rather is shorthand for encouraging evaluators to support movement toward a desired future. You might think of it as three creative turns of the Visionary Evaluation Kaleidoscope in the graphic:


Parsons 2 Parsons 4 Parsons 3

Systems thinking: emphasizes seeing interconnections especially related to competing values and ripple effects of various actions.

Building relationships: emphasizes working across disciplines and partners in new ways.

Equitable and sustainable living: draws attention to matters such as the interface between human justice and the use of natural resources.

My desire is that we all end this week with a renewed sense of what a sustainable, equitable future is and how we can use a visionary approach to evaluation to contribute to that future.

Hot Tip: Check out AEA Evaluation 2014 to review the program, the conference theme, and much more. Even if you are not attending the conference, you can be involved. Join the Twitter conversation at #Eval14. Check out the e-library as presenters post their materials. Contact the presenters whose work is of interest to you.

Rad Resources: There’s a new feature this year. Recordings of the Presidential Strand and Plenaries from the conference will be available for purchase after the conference! Information will be available online at AEA Evaluation 2014.

See you in Denver!

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.

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