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AKEN Week: Corrie Whitmore Introducing the Alaska Evaluation Network

I’m Corrie Whitmore, president of the Alaska Evaluation Network (AKEN) and an internal evaluator working for Southcentral Foundation (SCF).  SCF is an Alaska Native owned and operated health care organization serving approximately 60,000 Alaska Native and American Indian people living in Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and 60 rural villages in the Anchorage Service Unit. SCF has had program evaluation in-house since 2009. We are a small department with two evaluators, so it is important for us to build our skills and keep up to date with changes in evaluation practice by staying engaged with the American Evaluation Association (AEA) and local evaluation practitioners.

The Alaska Evaluation Network (AKEN), which is a great resource for all Alaskans interested in evaluation, was founded in 2012 with an emphasis on improving the quality of evaluation research, theory and practice in Alaska and creating forums for dialogue, relationship–building, learning, and collaboration.

Alaska offers a unique environment for evaluation.  According to the 2010 census, we have 730,000 people spread over an area larger than Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona combined. Population density is low, some communities are only accessible by airplane or boat, and many evaluators work in tribal contexts. Building a community of practice encourages AKEN’s members to support evaluation practices that are responsive to the uniqueness of Alaska’s geographic, social, cultural, and administrative context; encourage effective evaluation; improve evaluation capacity within the state; and advocate for evaluation leadership.

AKEN’s goals are to: increase the understanding of evaluation’s purpose and use in Alaska; build evaluator and organization capacity around evaluation approaches, methods, and cultural competency; promote evaluation as a profession; and support the contribution of evaluation to the generation of theory and knowledge about effective human action in Alaska and the circumpolar north.

To date, AKEN has more than 50 members spread from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Southern California (spanning 3000 miles). This geographic dispersal is a strength – we are committed to including evaluators across the state and those living elsewhere who work in Alaska – and a challenge. To address that reality, all of our meetings have a teleconference or web conferencing option, meeting minutes are posted to our website, and much business is done by email.

Lessons Learned:  Connecting with other evaluators in your region can enrich your work and support capacity building. While it would be great to sit across the table from each other, it can be just as valuable to connect using technology!

Get Involved: by joining AKEN or your own local affiliate. These groups are online at the AEA Affiliate List. If your area doesn’t have an affiliate yet – start one! We’d be glad to share our experience with you.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Alaska Evaluation Network (AKEN) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AKEN 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.

1 thought on “AKEN Week: Corrie Whitmore Introducing the Alaska Evaluation Network”

  1. Great to see how far AKEN has come in a relatively short time Corrie. Not so long ago it was a conversation over breakfast at the Cookie Jar in Fairbanks. I remember a similar conversation over breakfast in Atlanta from which the Indigenous TIG of AEA was launched…. it starts with a conversation – or perhaps it is breakfast that is the key to launching a new evaluation collective! Jokes aside – it’s fantastic to see AKEN up and running and already contributing to the wider evaluation scene. Way to go Alaska!

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