Greeting from Minneapolis, Minnesota! This is Melissa Chapman Haynes and Traci Capesius. We are program evaluators at Professional Data Analysts, Inc., where we specialize in the evaluation of public health programs, particularly tobacco control and obesity. A big highlight from AEA’s 2012 meeting was diving into the unknown by facilitating a brown bag exchange titled, “Negotiating Competing Interests and Expectations While Staying Within Budget (and Maintaining Your Sanity).” This was a new format that will be continued at the 2013 as Birds of Feather sessions, to be held on Saturday over the lunch hour.
This type of more informal session allows the facilitator to introduce a topic and a thought-provoking issue or challenge to the group. Our goal at the 2012 meeting was to both share what we had learned as well as learn from what others have done when evaluations have gone off-track, or when competing interests are threatening the feasibility of the evaluation or the program. We had a small group, but the conversation was lively and all participants were able to share their experiences, as they wished or felt comfortable. One participant in the group was newer to evaluation and had come to learn from others – she told us at the end that it had been a useful format and topic, so we were pleased!
Rad Resource: Michael Morris’s book, Evaluation Ethics for Best Practice: Cases and Commentaries should be a required reading for all evaluators! The presentation of scenarios makes the topic of ethics in evaluation easy to access for a range of evaluators, from the novice to the experienced.
Lesson Learned: For the 2013 meeting we certainly plan to attend a Birds of a Feather session and encourage you to do so as well! It is a great way to meet colleagues and to learn from your peers. And if you are a first-time meeting attendee, or if you just tend to be on the quieter side in more formal sessions, this is a great opportunity to participate in a potentially lively discussion. It’s sort of like the face-to-face version of the EvalTalk listserve!
Hot Tip: Network at the conference – every opportunity you get! One of our favorite things about the Annual Meeting is the atmosphere of collegiality. Try to attend a range of sessions, including the plenary, paper sessions, a TIG meeting or two, and the Birds of a Feather session. It is likely that you will not only gain some useful knowledge or practical tips from the presenter, but that you will meet other colleagues in the audience. If someone asks an interesting question of the presenter, make a note of it and try to connect with that individual after the session.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Minnesota Evaluation Association (MN EA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the MNEA AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our MNEA 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.