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Gerri Spilka on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Evaluation Fellowship Program

My name is Gerri Spilka and I am the Executive Director of the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning – a consulting firm that assists and assesses change through evaluation, strategic research and planning, grants management and capacity building. Among our many projects, OMG serves as the lead management team on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Evaluation Fellowship Program and it is about that program that I will share information today.

The skill set needed to interpret effectively public health, social service, community and organizational social patterns depends on the authentic and diverse experiences within program evaluation teams. Programs and services that are often evaluated traditionally work with underserved and disadvantaged communities, which are themselves becoming more diverse. However, the program evaluation field is becoming less diverse due to a lack of training and placement opportunities for emerging professionals from graduate programs who come from underserved and disadvantaged communities. This creates a problem for the field where, more often than not, high-quality evaluations reflect a process that incorporates diverse perspectives. The RWJF Evaluation Fellowship Program works to ameliorate this disparity.

Resource: The RWJF Evaluation Fellowship Program seeks to extend the skills of participants from diverse backgrounds to include culturally responsive evaluation practices. The Fellows program supports two cohorts annually on parallel paths:

  • The Emerging Professionals Program is aimed at those who have graduated from a master’s or doctoral degree program within the last three years and provides a one-year placement, extensive training opportunities, and a support stipend
  • The Retooling Professionals Program is focused on mid- or senior-level nonprofit professionals who remain in their current position, but receive additional training to extend their skills to evaluation. Their organization receives a $5,000 financial award and the professional receives a travel stipend.

Both cohorts receive customized training, facilitated by some of today’s thought leaders in field, as well as mentorship, and practical field-based guidance.

Hot Tip: While the deadline from participating in the Retooling Professionals program has passed, the deadline for applying for the Emerging Professionals program is coming up on July 31, 2010. The Emerging Professionals application may be downloaded online from http://www.rwjf-evaluationfellows.org/emerging-fellows.

Resource: The RWJF Evaluation Fellowship Program just released a video entitled Evaluation With a Diversity Lens. This extended discourse among a range of professionals explores the value of diversity in the evaluation profession and may be downloaded for free.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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