IC TIG Week: Making Connections and Building Community as an Independent Consultant by Cate Samuelson

Hello, my name is Cate Samuelson. I currently work as both an independent consultant and an internal evaluator. I began working as an independent consultant in 2007, and two years ago, I started Collaborative Solutions, an equity-focused research and evaluation consulting business.

Being an independent consultant does not mean you have to work alone. I’ve enlisted a number of strategies that have helped me create connections and community with other evaluators, and you can too!

Lessons Learned: Two key lessons I’ve learned are 1) spread the word and 2) always be on the lookout for opportunities to connect and collaborate. Tell everyone you know and new people you meet about the work you do, why you do it, and that you’re interested in connecting with others doing similar and/or complementary work. At the same time, pay attention and seek out opportunities that could lead to new connections. These could take a variety of forms, such as networking or other events, volunteering, professional development, leadership opportunities, pro bono projects and more. I’m guessing that many of you already do these things as part of your marketing and business development practices. If so, simply broaden the scope of your message to let people know you’re interested in connecting and/or collaborating with others.

Hot Tip: Take advantage of the annual AEA conference and the various opportunities to connect with other evaluators. In addition to attending different TIG meetings and events specifically geared toward networking, AEA sessions can also serve as a resource for making new connections. I have found this particularly true of Independent Consulting TIG sessions. In fact, two years ago, I attended a session focused on “extreme” collaboration. Not surprisingly, those who attended were interested in connecting and collaborating. It turned out that a number of us lived and worked in California, so we exchanged contact information and essentially started our own professional learning community. We meet monthly via Zoom to discuss independent consulting and evaluation topics of interest, share resources, troubleshoot issues, share opportunities for collaboration, and members of the group have collaborated on various projects and proposals. In addition to attending sessions, consider submitting your own AEA session proposal to connect with other evaluators around a particular topic of interest to you.

Hot Tip: Find your regional AEA affiliate and get involved as much as you can. My local affiliate organizes regular networking and professional development events for evaluators in the region. I have found these events to be an amazing resource for connecting with evaluators in the area.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG 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.

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