LAWG Week: From Learning to Action: Learning Before, During, and After the 2017 AEA Conference by Kathryn Newcomer and David Bernstein

We are Kathryn Newcomer, Director of the Trachtenberg School for Public Policy and Administration at The George Washington University (GWU) and 2017 AEA President, and David Bernstein, CEO of DJB Evaluation Consulting and 2017 AEA Conference Program Co-chair. We have been exploring the relationship between evaluation and learning for over 35 years. David was part of Kathy’s first evaluation cohort at GWU, Kathy was David’s doctoral dissertation advisor, and we have been frequent collaborators, co-authors, and AEA co-presenters.

Evaluation is dependent on learning from each other and putting theory into action. Each learning opportunity presents unique challenges and together, as a community, the 2017 AEA Conference in Washington, DC from November 6 to 11, 2017, will allow us to move beyond these challenges to find solutions to improve our programs and create greater good for society as a whole.

The four conference themes are a way to explore the full lifecycle of an evaluation: learning to enhance evaluation practices; learning what works; learning from others (other evaluations, other professions), and learning about evaluation users and uses. Over the next four days, evaluators who have assisted Kathy with planning the 2017 AEA conference will reflect on each of the subthemes, and provide tips to get the most out of the conference and our host city of Washington, DC. Some blogs will include inside knowledge from members of Washington Evaluators (WE), the local DC area affiliate. We are both enthusiastic Past-Presidents of WE.

Rad Resources: The AEA Conference Program is online. You can see a color coded conference overview at the bottom of the page. The top of the page has a very useful search feature. You can search the conference program by session title, track (Topical Interest Group themes and cross-cutting topics including Presidential Strand sessions), time slot, presenter, and session type. Be sure to look for the keynote sessions and keynote discussions featuring terrific speakers reflecting on different aspects of the conference theme.

Hot Tip: There are some great places to visit in DC before and after the conference. Two of our favorites provide an opportunity to “learn from the animals” and to reflect on what you’ve learned in a beautiful environment. David’s daughters are from China, and when they were younger they enjoyed the Panda statue right outside of the Marriott Wardman Park, the 2017 Conference Headquarters, before a visit to see real pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo. The Zoo is a short uphill half-mile walk from the Marriott Wardman Park. Want a chance to quietly reflect on what you learned at the AEA Conference? Check out the Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens, a short ride or two mile walk from the Marriott. Reflect on what you learned at the conference, and put your evaluation learning into action by sharing what you learned with others.

We’re looking forward to November and the Evaluation 2017 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to

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