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Oregon Evaluators Week: Being a part of an AEA Topical Interest Group: Building Connections and Shared Learning by Chari Smith

Hi, I’m Chari Smith with Evaluation into Action in Portland, Oregon. I help nonprofits and foundations build realistic and meaningful program evaluation systems. I am pleased to kick off this week of AEA 365 posts from Oregon evaluators with a focus on professional development.

Connecting with other program evaluators regularly is a source of professional growth for me. As a consultant, I often work in isolation. The Nonprofit and Foundation Topical Interest Group (TIG) offers the opportunity to learn and connect with other program evaluators also working with nonprofits and/or foundations.

In 2018, I felt a tug to get more involved with this TIG, so I reached out to the program chair to explore opportunities. Lucky for me, program co-chairs Susan Wolfe and Ann Price had just launched a 6-person Leadership Council to increase membership engagement. Mission accomplished. I am engaged.

Being a part of this Leadership Council has helped me grow in the following ways:

Build connections. Since being involved in this TIG, I’ve met fellow evaluators from all over the country that otherwise would have never met. I look forward to our monthly virtual meetings.  It’s like my very own virtual water cooler experience, sans the water cooler.

Share learning. We share resources, ideas, and I have learned much from my fellow TIG Council members. One member shared about a book “Unicorns Unite: How nonprofits and foundations can build EPIC Partnerships” so I promptly bought it. It offers great insights into the complex relationship between nonprofits and foundations. 

Being a part of this Leadership Council deepens my connection to AEA and to the field as a whole. I’ve been involved with the local affiliate Oregon Program Evaluators Network (OPEN) for several years, and increasing my engagement at the national level allows me to reach beyond the state lines.

Hot Tip: Get involved with a TIG. There are many to choose from to connect you to other program evaluators.    

Rad Resources:  Unicorns Unite: How nonprofits and foundations can build EPIC Partnerships by Jessamyn Shams-Lau, Jane Leu, and Vu Le.

In today’s uncertain climate, starting a meeting with ‘how are you’ can be a loaded question. I so appreciate this graphic that offers alternative questions to ask in the beginning of a meeting. We used this in our TIG meeting, and it was a great way to get to know each other a little bit better. The most popular question was, “What made you smile today?” For me, it was hearing my 13-year-old hammer away on the drums.    

questions you can ask instead of "how are you?"

This week, AEA365 is featuring posts from evaluators in Oregon. Since Evaluation 2020 was moved from Portland, OR to online, a generous group of Oregon evaluators got together to offer content on a variety of topics relevant to evaluators. 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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