LAWG Week: Juda Viola on Chicago’s Culture of Evaluation Capacity Building

Greetings. My name is Judah Viola. I am a community psychologist, long time member of the Chicago Evaluation Association, and Dean of the College of Professional Studies and Advancement at National Louis University in Chicago. My evaluation experiences are separated into the two distinct settings in which I work: 1) institutional work within universities and 2) consulting for a variety of social justice-oriented nonprofit, and government entities engaged in expansive forms of collaboration to improve quality of life for all residents.

Lessons Learned:

I am closely attached to some great organizations working to build capacity around evaluation in the city of Chicago. The scope of these groups range from issue-based consortiums of over 600 member organizations to single entities setting the national standard for quality evaluation and practical training.

Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium, has worked to expand their reach across Chicago neighborhoods and efforts to diversify their community and mentorships programs. Shedd’s evaluation team also offers training opportunities through their internships in the learning planning and evaluation and audience research and evaluation.

The Chicago Public Schools is faced with some of the most serious challenges given the magnitude of its operations and also highly values evaluation and the exploration of the effectiveness of its various innovative programs, and places where it is restricted from being innovative in places it hopes to explore. I was an evaluator on a set of restorative justice programs aimed at reducing out of school suspensions and disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline.

The Research and Evaluation Interest Group at the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC) provides technical assistance for diverse projects ranging from complex city agency task forces to small community based organizations. The evaluation team at CLOCC provides trainings and resources to build evaluation capacity locally and nationally, and they regularly provide consultation sessions with members of the consortium looking for guidance on how to evaluate their programs.

Hot Tips: Chicago is a hotbed for training evaluators with its multitude of local, state, and national agencies and nonprofit organizations. Community Psychology PhD training programs at National Louis, DePaul, and University of Illinois at Chicago build practical evaluation work into their curricula.

Hot Tip: In preparing to come to Chicago for AEA, learn more about the work of local organizations by attending the Little Village Walk led by the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

Hot Tip: Getting involved in your local affiliate regardless of where you are based can provide social support, and be both a source of professional development and networking. In the last 12 years my affiliate has been a great source for cross referrals and learning.

Rad Resource: CLOCC recently published the The 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® Evaluation Toolkit for Child-Serving Programs

We’re looking forward to November and the Evaluation 2015 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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