AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

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SheilaSeason’s Greetings and Happy Holidays loyal AEA365 readers! I’m Sheila B. Robinson, Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor with a few tips and tools for bloggers, and a quick update to our contribution guidelines.

 

Evaluation and blogging go together like apple pie and ice cream – each great on its own, but together? Fabulous!

Many evaluators have their own blogs but even more (hundreds, in fact!) have contributed to aea365 over the years. Several have contributed to our blogger series over the years, and have told us they enjoy blogging for many reasons. Some enjoy writing, others enjoy sharing what they have learned, and still others think of their blogs as ways to organize and archive their work. There are, of course, many other reasons to blog about our work and we’re hoping that more of you will come forward in 2017 and contribute to aea365!

Rad Resource: Check out HubSpot’s The Ultimate List of Websites Every Blogger Should Bookmark. Sites listed include ones that help you keep organized, sites for blog ideation, data analysis, writing, editing, and sharing on social media. Just for laughs (and I got them!) I tried Portent’s Content Idea Generator which supplies you with a title (useful when you have writer’s block), if you give it a keyword. Of course, I tried “evaluation” and got several, um, interesting title ideas, including this one: Why Evaluations are Cuter Than a Kitten (feel free to write and send me the article, if that particular title inspires you!). Not all were as light-hearted as that one, and several were quite good, but the idea is that you get enough options for what to write about that something is certain to inspire you. 

Hot Tip: We have tweaked our Contribution Guidelines just a wee bit for the new year. Please check them out! Most notable is the fact that we have updated the word count to allow for posts up to 500 words. This comes after many, many requests for slightly longer posts. The other is that we suggest you include an author photo with your post. This is optional, of course, but it would certainly be nice for readers to see you!

Wishing all of you a happy, healthy 2017!

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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Hello! I’m Sheila B Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor. Hey, it’s been awhile since we have talked about evaluators and their blogs! There are more than 60 evaluators out there blogging away, sharing their work, their knowledge, their resources, and their creative ideas. Get to know them!

Some blog daily, some weekly, some monthly, and some even less often that that. Most (if not all) offer the opportunity to subscribe to new posts via email or RSS feed, and interact via comments on their articles.

Hot Tip: It’s easy to find evaluation bloggers!

  1. AEA maintains a list of evaluation bloggers here. Most of these are AEA members.
  2. aea365 has featured a number of bloggers over the years who have written about their blogs and included links to a few of their own favorite posts. Simply type “blogger” in our search box and you’ll find dozens of posts from our “Bloggers Week” series.
  3. Head over to EvalCentral where AEA member Chris Lysy aggregates over 60 evaluation-related blogs. Subscribe to EvalCentral, and you’ll receive a virtual smorgasbord of blog articles on every aspect of evaluation you can imagine. Check out the list of contributing blogs with links to each one if you would rather pick and choose.

Get Involved: Make comments on blog posts to interact with the authors and other readers. It’s easy to connect with blog authors through the comments. Some blog articles generate rich discussions that are as valuable a learning tool as the articles themselves. It’s also a great way to “meet” other evaluators. You never know whose article or comment may become the catalyst for a future collaboration! Blog authors often appreciate the acknowledgement, encouragement, support, and insights their readers share.

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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Greetings loyal blog readers and Happy New Year! I’m Sheila B Robinson, Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor for my favorite evaluation blog! It’s no news that I call myself aea365’s biggest fan, as this was the first evaluation blog I so fortuitously discovered on December 31, 2009. On that day, an announcement appeared on the AEA website that a daily blog would begin the next day, January 1, 2010.

Now, as we approach 2016 and aea365’s 6th birthday, I want to broaden your horizons and introduce you to other evaluation blogs. Since aea365’s inception (and even years before) evaluators became bloggers and began populating the evalusphere with generous evaluation know-how.

Hot Tip: Choose a day during which you would like to read up on some evaluation topics. Only after you’ve read the day’s aea365 blog post (well, what would you expect me to say?!), head over to one of the many other great evaluation-related blogs and take a look around. Here are three ways to find some gems:

1.) AEA’s list of evaluation-related blogs. AEA maintains a list with links to evaluators and their blogs.*

2.) AEA365 Bloggers weeks. Check out the aea365 archive for several weeks in previous years devoted to introducing readers to bloggers and their blogs.

3.) EvalCentral – Chris Lysy started aggregating evaluation blogs some years ago and his collection has now grown to more than 60! It’s like the Mall of America for blogs – one-stop shopping! Just one daily email brings you on average 1-4 blog posts from evaluation bloggers who post as often as once per week, to those we seem to hear from only once per year.

Cool Trick: Blogging isn’t just for evaluation, of course. Several (if not many) well-known evaluators maintain additional blogs on areas of interest well outside of evaluation! Do you know who they are?

Lesson Learned: There is a great range of opinion on the future of blogging, especially in the business and marketing world. Some say blogging will be eclipsed by other content delivery strategies such as audio (think podcasts and the like) and video. Others think the written word will stand the test of time.

Educator and marketing consultant Mark Schaefer is among these and predicts, “Written content is an important pillar of ‘rich content’ and will remain so although people will diversify the way they consume content” (see What Is The Future Of Blogging? for additional predictions).

What other evaluation-related blogs do you enjoy reading? Let us hear about them in the comments!

*Are you an AEA member with an evaluation-related blog not on our list? Write to info@eval.org with your blog’s title and URL.

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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Hi there! I am Deborah Levy, Principal of SuccessLinks, LLC and the new Chair of the Independent Consulting TIG. I have been evaluating for 15 years and have been independent for eight years. I have published two posts since I started my blog “Why Not Blog?” after attending the annual conference in October. As you can see, my start has been slow and the holidays didn’t help much. I started my blog because I wanted to insert my voice into the blogging world, specifically around evaluation and my work as an independent consultant. I really enjoy reading friends’ and colleagues’ blogs (evaluation-related and those that aren’t). They inspire me and also I really like that a blog helps you understand a different side to people. I wanted to produce the same effect for other readers and present a part of myself that people who know me personally or professionally don’t know.

Favorite Post –  (not many to choose from) My First Post, I Hope it’s a Good One: This post flowed just as I would want it to. It felt natural writing it and conveyed the excitement I was feeling as I put the words down. The response was positive and energized me to continue. It was a strong entry to the blogging world.

Lesson Learned– After my first two posts, I decided that a monthly blog was going to be more my speed. Many blogging experts suggest writing weekly or even multiple times a week, but for me that isn’t possible or even desired at this point. Everyone has a different writing schedule and that is okay. Just because you don’t post once a week does not mean your blog isn’t worthy or you should stop writing all together. I also have learned that graphics go a long way. Some of my favorite blogs use photos, charts, or cartoons. It makes reading them more fun. Lastly, don’t decide that your blog is going to serve one purpose (e.g. an evaluation blog) because you probably have many more stories to tell and thoughts to share that aren’t about that subject area. It would be a disservice to yourself and your readers to not write something you want to share because it doesn’t fit into the box you originally created for yourself.

This winter, we’re continuing our occasional series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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Hello! My name is Chithra Adams. I work as an evaluator at the Human Development Institute, University of Kentucky. I blog about design thinking and evaluation.

Rad Resource – Evaluation and Design Thinking: The blog explores the application of design thinking principles to the practice of evaluation. Each post includes a review of design thinking and design literature and ends with a discussion of possible applications to evaluation. I usually post once every two weeks. I view the blog as a community learning space and visitors are encouraged to provide their interpretation of the concepts discussed in the posts.

Hot Tips: Favorite posts: The blog is fairly new so there only a few posts. Most of the current posts focus on understanding the definition of design thinking. Here are two posts that will give you a sense of the blog:

  • The Start of a Preoccupation: This posts talks about how I got into design thinking. It also talks about the questions I had after reading through many definitions of design thinking. The post includes some great introductory resources on design thinking.
  • Definition Deconstruction Design Sensibility Part 1 of 3: This post describes design sensibility and what it means to evaluators. The post includes an article by design consultants. It is a pretty easy read and gives a glimpse of how designers’ view problems.

Lessons Learned: Why I blog: There are a lot of web resources on design thinking. I found these resources to be quite helpful to get me excited and interested in the concept. However, they were less helpful concerning how design thinking could be used in the practice of evaluation. At a cursory glance, design thinking will appear as a strategy to make products more user-centered. As a discipline, evaluation is rich with theories and practices that encourage being user centered (utilization focused evaluation, empowerment evaluation etc.). Evaluation has a strong tradition of implementing practices and developing products that are user centered. So what does design thinking offer evaluation? Does design thinking provide any added value to evaluation? What does it look like to practice design thinking in evaluation? The blog is the record of my journey to answer these questions.

Lessons Learned: What I’ve learned: Blogging to me is like exercising! Once I get started, I have so much fun.

This winter, we’re continuing our occasional series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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Call me Daniel. “Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world”. (Herman Melville, 1851)

Rad Resource – Comprehensive Evaluation. A site where to find various information and resources on evaluation, public policy and evaluating public policies. Despite the limited time that I have, I started posting in October 2014 with the intention to include a post once a week, at least.

Hot Tips — Favorite posts: Comprehensive Evaluation is bilingual, it is written in Spanish and English. I have only a few posts, but here are those I think are most interesting. Also, I will include links to certain sections of the blog that I believe may be of interest to you.

  • Evidence, Evaluation, and Effective Government (by Caroline Heider). Interesting opinion piece by Caroline Heider, Director General of the Independent Evaluation Group of the World Bank Group, originally published in The Diplomatic Courier.
  • ENGAGE: Open Government Data. ENGAGE is a door for researchers that leads them to the world of Open Government Data. By using the ENGAGE platform, researchers and citizens will be able to submit, acquire, search and visualize diverse, distributed and derived Public sector datasets from all the countries of the European Union.
  • Authors. Links to relevant information on authors and researchers.
  • Training. Links to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in design, management, analysis and evaluation of public policies around the world.

Lessons Learned — Why I blog: Comprehensive Evaluation is the result of my investigation for the preparation of my degree in Public Administration and Management Final Project, “The evaluation of public policies in Valencian Region: situation analysis and proposal of institutionalization”: many materials collected, pages visited or consulted sources. These data and information will be gradually incorporated into the web. I hope, someone might find it useful.

Lessons Learned — What I’ve learned: In addition to managing Comprehensive Evaluation, I have another personal blog. I am studying a master and also working at the Polytechnic University of Valencia so, I do not have much time for posting in my two blogs but I try never to forget … Post is an escape, a way to get away from daily routine and show the rest of the world who you are, what interests you, what worries you, what you can offer and someone may be interested in receiving… It is also a great way to make friends, if not … what would I do here? Thank you very much!!

This winter, we’re continuing our occasional series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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I’m Carrie Tanasichuk, a relatively new evaluation blogger. I currently work in the Program Research & Development department at the YMCA of Greater Toronto, where we support the Association to assess impact and improve programming across the YMCA as well as in the larger community.

Rad Resource – CarrieTanasichuk.com: Broadly speaking, my blog is about anything to do with research and evaluation. I’m a social psychologist by training and my favourite thing to write about is how social psychological theory can be useful to evaluation. I also find data visualization fascinating and I like to posts tips and tricks that I learn. I’m currently branching out and learning R, and I would like to start posting about that in the future.

Hot Tips: Favorite posts:

  • Measuring attitudes that predict behaviours – Using attitudinal survey questions to predict future behaviour is something that comes up repeatedly when discussing the external validity of evaluation findings. In this post I look at the theory behind attitudes predicting behaviour.
  • Developing valid self-report measures – Self-report measures are widely used in evaluation, but lately I’ve come across several people (not evaluators) who are quick to dismiss them. I wanted to do some background research on how to make self-report measures as valid as possible.
  • A simple GIF illustrating dataviz principles – I didn’t create this GIF, but I love how it communicates a lot of principles very simply. I’ve shared it with a lot of people and they’ve all loved it, too.

Lessons Learned: Why I blog: I’ve kept a personal blog in one form or another for over 12 years. I’ve blogged about everything from cooking, running, knitting, and backpacking! I first came across evaluation blogs 3 years ago when I started reading AEA365. I toyed with the idea of starting an evaluation blog but I was hesitant – would I have anything valuable to add to the conversation? Would anyone even read my posts? I finally decided to take the plunge and I’ve been overwhelmed at how friendly and welcoming other evaluation bloggers have been!

Lessons Learned: What I’ve learned: I sometimes hesitate to publish a post if I don’t feel like I’m an “expert” on the topic. I read a tip from Susan Kistler that you can blog as a fellow learner, rather than as an expert. I think this is wonderful advice and something that I have tried to take to heart. Another lesson learned is to constantly draft posts. Whenever I have an idea for a post I quickly create a draft and jot down some notes. Sometimes I go back and flesh it out to be a full post (and sometimes the draft will sit there forever collecting dust).

This winter, we’re continuing our occasional series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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Hello! My name is Amanda Babine and I am the Director of Evaluate for Change, a program evaluation company that provides training exclusively to nonprofits dedicated to measuring their impact, and a researcher at Columbia University in the City of New York.

Rad Resources – Evaluate for Change’s Data-Driven Nonprofit Blog

The company started inviting both nonprofits and evaluators to share their personal stories of using data to improve programming in the social sector. We focus on the good, bad and ugly of using data. Our guests post blogs that are written as first hand accounts and lessons learned; whereas our staff find ways to connect the nonprofit sector to data-scientists and program evaluators who can help.

Favorite Post –As we get so many great perspectives from our bloggers, it’s hard to pick which post is my favorite. With that being said, I will share three that most people seemed to find extremely entertaining:

  • Hottest Data Nerds – Working with something so serious all the time, data, we make sure we find time to have fun. And one of our most fun posts has been the Hottest Data Nerds. The title is exactly what you expect!

Why We Blog – I use WE intentionally. Our blog wouldn’t be as popular and successful if it was not for our passionate community that submits amazing blog ideas and entries. And we continue our work because we want to give the community voice.

What We Have Learned – I have learned that graduate school ruined my creativity. I also learned that our biggest asset is our editor. I am sure whatever I produced before this would make you question my qualifications. On a more serious note, I learned to allow people to have a voice.

Hot Tip – Just because someone has not blogged before doesn’t mean they won’t produce amazing content. Contributors who have been hesitant to share since they don’t have a lot of experience submitted some of our most popular blogs! Not that getting “famous” guest bloggers is a bad thing, but we found that less known individuals can inspire us just as much, if not more.

This winter, we’re continuing our occasional series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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I’m Wendy Tackett, the president of iEval, a part-time faculty member at Western Michigan University, and a new blogger in 2014.

Rad Resource – Carpe Diem: Make Your Evaluations Useful! Three of my iEval colleagues and I started this weekly blog last June primarily to help evaluators make their evaluations more useful.

Hot Tips – Favorite posts: Here are some of our most referenced posts to date, listed chronologically:

  • Week 5: Using a ‘Top of the Mind Memo’ – Sometimes even interim reports can be too cumbersome, so timely, relevant feedback presented in a short format can be very useful as a check point for clients.
  • Week 16: Avoiding misuse: The evaluation client’s perspective – While most of our readers seem to be evaluators, it’s helpful to step back and think from the client perspective at times.
  • Week 18: Miss America: The nation’s largest scholarship program for women – Evaluation really is all around us, and this comical perspective on creating a logic model reminds us of this, while also reminding us to humanize the work we are doing.
  • Week 20: I was at the European Evaluation Society Biennial Conference – It’s always enlightening to listen to Michael Scriven and try to apply his ideas to your own work.

Lessons Learned – Why I blog: My focus has always been the meaningful use of evaluation findings. I don’t do evaluation for the sake of research, to merely fulfill funder requirements, or to have my work never to be used. I want clients to benefit from the work and use it to make improvements and decisions. The Carpe Diem blog is one way to help others achieve that. I also provide evaluation training by teaching graduate students in evaluation, presenting at conferences, and serving on the Michigan Association for Evaluation board…all with the purpose of helping others practically apply their high quality evaluation findings.

Lessons Learned – What I’ve learned: First, it’s been great using the team approach – we share ideas with each other and build off of each other’s work. It takes the weekly burden off of one person and lets the readers benefit from multiple perspectives. Second, the online interaction with readers hasn’t been what we expected. Most of our feedback is direct – emails, conferences, personal contact. While we may not get regular, immediate feedback on each post, we’ve gotten enough to think we’re resonating with some people and encourage us to continue!

Hot Tip – I think a good post is a mix of information, usefulness, and fun. We try to share useful information, provide tips that can immediately be used, and end with a silly picture of the blogger that week – just to remind people to have fun with evaluation!

This winter, we’re continuing our occasional series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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Saludos from the Dominican Republic! My name is Molly Hamm, and I’m the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Coordinator for the educational non-profit organization The DREAM Project as well as the author of the evaluation blog Learning Culture.

Rad Resource – Learning Culture: My blog—still shy of its one-year anniversary—is all about asking and answering interesting questions. The content is mostly focused on the intersection of evaluation, international development, and education. Each post is meant to be a blend of provocative questions, reflective thinking, and practical takeaways. Updates happen approximately once per month, though sometimes I post more frequently (especially if I’ve invited in a guest blogger!)

Hot Tips: Favorite posts: As a relatively new blogger, I’m still growing and curating my content. My favorite posts tend to be those where I share “aha! moments” or those which have sparked interesting conversations either face-to-face or on Twitter. Here are a few posts that satisfy those criteria:

Lessons Learned: Why I blog: I’m an avid reader and writer. While I initially pursued a career as a high school English teacher, my relentless exploration of world literature—local stories told by local voices led me to international education and development. Evaluation, for me, became a way to uncover, weave together, and tell stories to new audiences. Blogging has given me a new platform to exercise this process and, more importantly, it allows me to stay critical of my own practice while facilitating debate and reflection among other evaluators. I feel like I’ve done my blogging job well if I can shape my own thoughts while prompting others to think in new ways—bonus points if others engage in my work to challenge my ideas and/or suggest new areas to explore!

Lessons Learned: What I’ve learned: It can be tough to maintain the momentum once you start a blog. Good writers write every day, and I strongly believe that this is true no matter what medium you choose for your writing. I’d like to put this technique into practice with Learning Culture so that I’m constantly developing my ideas (and my posts). I don’t need to publish a post per day, but I do need to let my creative juices flow more often!

This winter, we’re continuing our occasional series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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