Greetings, AEA365 readers! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. To whet our appetites for this year’s conference in beautiful New Orleans, this week’s posts come to us from the feature the perspectives of the Gulf Coast Eval Network (GCEval) members, where the uniqueness of doing evaluation in the gulf south will be on display. Happy reading!
All right y’all! Whereyat? I’m William Faulkner, director of New Orleans-based evaluation consulting firm Flux R.M.E., and an early member of the Gulf Coast Eval Network (GCEval – we usually call it ‘Gee-See-Eval’).
On a sticky August evening in 2017, with a soft orchestra of cicadas and tree frogs interlacing the conversation, a small clique of evaluation-interested folks sat conversing at a neighborhood brewery. Lounging beneath banana leaves on the remains of a loading dock, the motley crew gathered to meet, most for the first time, and to plant the inaugural seeds of the gulf coast’s first professional evaluation network: GCEval.
We’ve come a long way. Now a 501(c)3 with fifty-seven active members across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, our mission is to “champion high quality evaluation through capacity building, peer learning, professional development, and networking.”* We cover a kaleidoscope of topics in monthly membership meetings, organize annual workshops for non-profits (see Kellie Chavez-Greene and Steve Mumford’s 2019 post on Building an Evaluation Ecosystem), connect supply and demand for evaluation services through a listserv/social media, and foster community through quarterly in-person networking events (covid-permitting).
Our organization’s vision, “that high quality, evaluation and systematic learning systems contribute to a sustainable, equitable, and thriving Gulf Coast region,” conforms to a context where professional evaluation is barely established. The seedling of evaluation as a larger set of values-driven practices beyond basic compliance monitoring now has a niche in which to establish roots.
Having gotten this far, GCEval’s community is incredibly excited to welcome AEA in November!! As one of the newest AEA affiliate, GCEval and our Local Area Working Group (LAWG) will facilitate a specific symbiosis/two-way street:
- For Visitors: Authentic learning for conference attendees that puts you face-to-face with the pride of our culture-bearers. We want you to know the joie de vivre of impromptu celebration and improvised kindness that knits us together down here. We also hope you experience the dissonance of confronting the often-overt legacies of inequity and injustice seeping through local society. Finally, perhaps the visceral sight of coal barges gliding by above you on the Mississippi river will punctuate a focus on action, sustained pressure, and substantive change.
- For Locals: A crucial injection of accomplished professionals that inspires our regional changemakers to evolve their concept of evaluation and recognize its enormous potential. This will be the first opportunity many have had to interact not just with individuals who know about evaluation, but with a large, established group of professionals including commissioners, evaluators, and on-the-ground implementors of programming.
With your help, our LAWG will strive to realize a productive conference while using your intelligence, empathy, and skills to expand regional perceptions of evaluation.
- GCEval, of course! Website, FaceBook, Linkedin: if you live or work in Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama, please consider becoming a part of our community and/or spreading the word about us to your contacts!
- The rest of this ‘LAWG week’ on AEA365 will feature the perspectives of GCEval members. The uniqueness of doing evaluation in the gulf south will be on display. Let’s kick off this two-way street through post comments and following up with the authors!
- [Forthcoming] In early fall, the LAWG & AEA will disseminate a Local Area Guide for the November conference with a menu of options for steering your experience towards sustainable, genuinely local options. We claim no exclusive expertise, however, and welcome your ideas – just email firstname.lastname@example.org!
*Full Mission/Vision/Values available here.
We’re looking forward to the Evaluation 2022 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 AEA365@eval.org. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.