Competencies Task Force Week: Eric Barela, Anna Rodell and Susan Tucker on the Context Domain

This is Eric Barela,, Anna Rodell, Collective Progress, and Susan Tucker, Evaluation & Development Associates, members of AEA’s Competencies Task Force. This week we are presenting the competencies our group has drafted in the past 18 months. One grounding question has guided the work of our task force: “What is fundamental to the practice of evaluators?” An important answer to that question is evaluators’ ability to understand the context in which they practice.

Competencies included in the 2/24/16 DRAFT Context Domain focus on analyzing and attending to the unique interests, issues, and circumstances surrounding any given evaluation. This includes attention to the evaluation’s setting, the details of the evaluand itself, the concerns of numerous stakeholders, the potential users and uses of the evaluation, and the evaluation’s broader social context.


Lesson Learned: One of the questions we asked in drafting these competencies was what exactly we meant by a program’s context. Draft competency 3.3 includes examples of contextual features. These may involve the geography, history, and politics related to the evaluand and the values and culture of program recipients.  There are also questions surrounding power and privilege, potentially related to who is in charge and whose voices are present or absent. After extensive discussion, we learned that it is also important that context incorporate broader societal concerns that inevitably affect how programs operate. Our solution was to target both local contextual features and broader social concerns.  In writing this draft, we worked to address context at these two levels and now seek feedback about whether this makes sense as we move to finalize the draft.

Get Involved: Please help by providing your thoughts on the draft competencies. The AEA website ( has an extremely visible link to the full draft of proposed AEA competencies, and we hope you will send your ideas to us at Also, check tomorrow’s aea365 for draft competencies from the one remaining domain (Interpersonal).

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating AEA’s Competencies Task Force week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members of AEA’s Competencies Task Force. 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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