Sheila B Robinson on #Eval14 – Visionary Evaluation and the Big Blue Bear

Hi, I’m Sheila Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor with reflections from Denver as we wrap up Evaluation 2014. I’ve enjoyed five AEA conferences now, each one as exciting a learning and community-building opportunity as the last. I spent time thinking deeply about our conference theme and discovering the connections among the various presentations to those ideas and ideals.

Beverly Parsons, our 2014 AEA president, kicked off the conference with an inspiring opening plenary, Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable Equitable Future during which she described three key areas and how they apply to evaluation.:

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.

John Gargani, AEA president-elect for 2016, helped close out the conference in the final plenary by asking participants to consider three key questions:

1.) What should AEA’s role be in supporting a sustainable equitable future?

2.) How might AEA support your plans for visionary evaluation?

3.) How should AEA contribute to the global evaluation community?

Lesson Learned: Many sessions were overflowing with standing room only and some presenters were surprised and honored that their sessions drew such interest. Handouts were in short supply and I heard many, many participants ask for the presenter’s slides.

Get Involved: With that in mind, Evaluation 2014 presenters: Please upload your materials – Slides, handouts, etc. – to the AEA Public eLibrary. It’s easy to do and not only will your Evaluation 2014 participants appreciate it, but your reach will be extended to those who could not be at the conference.

Cool Trick: To extend your learning and enjoy a variety of perspectives, start looking in the coming days and weeks for evaluation bloggers to reflect on their conference experiences. Heres a link to our AEA member blogs.

Hot Tip: This same link will get you a list of evaluators on Twitter. Be sure to search the hashtag #eval14 for conference tweets. I maintain a twitter list of evaluators as well and it grew substantially during the conference closing in on 300. You can subscribe to that list through me – @SheilaBRobinson. Be sure to follow some of the newest #eval tweeters too, to continue to build community among evaluators.

And finally, many evaluators had the opportunity to enjoy all that Denver offers, while others stayed close to the conference sites – The Hyatt Regency and Denver Convention Center. We were perplexed and amused by the friendly but imposing 40ft big blue bear who peers curiously into the Convention Center as if to say, “Who are all these evaluators and what are they about?”

"I See What You Mean" (2005) Sculpture by Lawrence Argent. Photo by Billy Hathorn
“I See What You Mean” (2005) Sculpture by Lawrence Argent. Photo by Billy Hathorn

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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