Evaluation Conferences: To Go or Not To Go, That Is The Question by Sara Vaca

Hi, I’m Sara Vaca, independent consultant and AEA365 frequent contributor, sharing another nugget about my adventures of being an evaluator.

Deadlines for presenting proposals for two major evaluation conferences this year –AEA’s Evaluation 2020 and the European Evaluation Society (EES) 2020 Conference — approach, and as every year by this time, I’m in a sea of doubts. 

Lesson Learned: Ever since my family encouraged me and I went to my first evaluation conference (Evaluation 2013, Denver), attending to these events feels for me like travelling to my planet for a week every time (= I looooove them). 

That is why I envy those of you who “always go”, either due to your organization policy or your personal conviction.

Lessons Learned: However, as an independent evaluation consultant, I have to make a choice every year about going or not, and many pros and cons pop into my head until I decide:

First of all, it is hard to predict in February, time when you should start preparing proposals (if not earlier), what my life will be like in October or November (when these conferences take place). 

Then, every two years I have to decide whether I’m going to AEA or EES or both (or neither). As a Spaniard based in France, EES is a more natural, affordable and a less overwhelming beast to tackle. But on the other hand, as a happy AEA member (AEA makes me feel home beyond my nationality) AEA conferences are always exciting to attend. And going to both seldom feels like a sensible option (for resources and time efficiency issues). 

Here is my personal evaluation conference attendance record:

Another Lesson Learned: To make things more complicated, no matter how much I enjoy the experience, at the end of these big conferences my developing cultural competence often makes me feel like trying other VOPEs conferences next year, to explore and understand evaluation beyond the dominant circuits… But except for one occasion where I was invited to the South Africa M&E Association conference (SAMEA, 2017 which was great), I have never done it on my own.

Hot Tip: I would love to share good tips on how to decide but the only thing I do is to check with friends and to try to put proposals together – which is a lot of fun (by the way, does anybody I know want to do anything this year?), and then play it by ear, figuring it out about whether to apply or not and which, and hoping for the best.

Then the responses from the proposals you present help you finish deciding on either way – but that is another story. See you around this year – maybe! 😉

P.S. Do you have tips to decide? Please add them in the comments. Thanks!

2 thoughts on “Evaluation Conferences: To Go or Not To Go, That Is The Question by Sara Vaca”

  1. Great post-Sara. Something I always consider in my decision making is the date. I am extremely disappointed that AEA chose to overlap the conference with Halloween this year. I won’t attend when a conference intersects with a holiday that I spend with my family. I will be passing on AEA this year as I did in 2018.

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