OPEN Week: Kim Firth Leonard on Local Affiliates as Learning Communities

My name is Kim Firth Leonard, and I have the honor of authoring the first post on the aea365 blog for Oregon Program Evaluators Network (OPEN) week. I have been an AEA member since 2008, and am currently President of OPEN, a local affiliate of AEA founded in 1997. I work as Assessment Research Coordinator at Marylhurst University in Portland Oregon and do contract work in program evaluation via Leonard Research and Evaluation, LLC.

This week’s posts were by OPEN members who have played important volunteer and leadership roles for OPEN. The posts demonstrate the value of our local network by sharing lessons we’ve gathered in reflecting on our work together as evaluators and as volunteers with OPEN.

I have learned much about evaluation and about building learning communities through OPEN. The bulk of the work done by OPEN’s volunteer Council and Committees is in organizing and supporting local events. OPEN’s mission is to provide a regional, interdisciplinary forum for professional development, networking, and exchange of practical, methodological, and theoretical knowledge in the field of evaluation. It is through these events that we build learning communities, and in doing so strengthen our work individually, and as a field.  

Get Involved: Whether you have a local affiliate or just an informal network of other evaluators in your area, you too can host, lead, contribute to, or benefit from local evaluation events.

  • Host: Events don’t have to be massive undertakings to be successful. Small, informal gatherings can be just as valuable as large conferences. “Have an idea? Go for it” is practically our events committee motto.
  • Lead: Local events are great places to practice your presentation and training skills. Discussion groups, like OPEN’s new-ish Book Club are low-pressure and offer opportunities to discuss emerging topics.
  • Contribute: Volunteer to help organize events for unique networking opportunities. Learning event planning skills is icing on the cake.
  • Benefit: It’s all about learning together. Valuable learning about one another and the field can happen at any get together – so attend local events whenever you’re able.

Lesson Learned: OPEN has always been welcoming to community members who don’t identify as evaluators, exactly, but do related work or want to learn more about evaluation. In the last year or so we’ve been emphasizing this openness (ha!) and we’ve found that collaborating with and learning from others in related fields greatly enriches our evaluation learning community. Sessions at our recent conference intended to create opportunity to learn from and with others in our community, including non-profit leaders, were well received.

Rad Resource: Materials from our 2013 conference are available on our website.

Rad Resource: Your own learning community is at your local affiliate or among other local AEA members.

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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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