OPEN Week: Kelly Smith on Presenting about Cost Analysis at a Local Conference

My name is Kelly Smith, and I’m an evaluator, policy analyst and economist at ECONorthwest, a consulting firm in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been a devoted member of OPEN (Oregon Program Evaluators Network), an AEA affiliate, since I was introduced to it in graduate school in 2007. OPEN works hard to provide our members with a variety of learning opportunities, including brown bag lunch talks, workshops, networking events, conferences, and a book club. We do this mostly by tapping into our own members’ expertise. Until recently, I’d been instrumental in planning these events, and I’d certainly been an enthusiastic participant, but I hadn’t yet felt comfortable leading one.

This past year, I overcame my reticence and agreed to give a talk about cost analysis, a topic that seems to raise fear and confusion, if not hackles, among many evaluators. The event was free and the room was packed, far exceeding our expectations. Evidently, people were hungry for knowledge about this subject. Some attendees even expressed surprise that we didn’t charge for such a valuable class (lesson learned!). Having sensed a large untapped demand, we decided to offer two sessions about cost analysis at our annual conference in the spring, and both were well attended. We got great feedback about the usefulness of this topic.

These sessions were my first experiences “teaching”, and I found it both intellectually challenging and valuable (and if I’m honest, a bit nerve-wracking). I had to study the topic to refresh my knowledge, practice public speaking and presentation skills, and think on my feet. I’m confident that I got more out the experience than the attendees.

Get involved! If you’re a member of your local affiliate, don’t hesitate to step up and contribute your own knowledge! There is a real demand for learning opportunities, and certainly not enough supply. Your colleagues will benefit from your willingness to share, your affiliate will become stronger and more active, and you’ll come out ahead, too.

It’s hard to understate the value of learning from each other as evaluators. Not only do we grow as professionals when we contribute to our colleagues and our affiliate, but we expand the value and reach of the evaluation profession as a whole.

Rad Resource: If you are interested in learning more about cost analysis in evaluation, you’ll find a copy of the slides used at the conference sessions here.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Oregon Program Evaluators Network (OPEN) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from OPEN 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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