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Washington Evaluators Affiliate Week: Leading in Uncertain Times and Learning Along the Way by Beeta Tahmassebi

Hello! My name is Beeta Tahmassebi, I am the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at EnCompass LLC. In 2021, I had the honor of serving as President of Washington Evaluators (WE). Over the past year, WE experienced tremendous growth as evaluators in the DC area and beyond found a “virtual professional home” with us. This week you will read blog posts from other board members who will share about our commitments to anti-racism, strategic planning, programming, membership, community engagement and communications activities. In this blog, I will focus on a few lessons we learned along the way. 

Lessons Learned

  • Diversity needs to be top-down, bottom-up, and all the places in-between – One of our priorities was to have diverse representation on the board in 2021. We were grateful to those who served and feel that the increased diversity supported more innovative thinking and a better strategic planning process overall.
  • Intentionality is Key – We knew that we wanted 2021 to be all about engagement and taking a hard look at all of our systems and processes, and working toward improvement. To this end, we started 2021 with a call to members, laying out our priorities for the year and asking them to get involved and help. Throughout the year we did a number of things to create space for engagement with members and non-members alike. These opportunities in turn presented us with inputs that were invaluable in our strategic planning process.
  • Stay grounded in your purpose – This year was one in which we had to revisit the question of our purpose a number of times. Knowing WE can’t be all things to all people, but also navigating where and how it might make sense to expand. In the end, we stayed true to our goal of serving the evaluation community and used that lens as a guidepost.
  • Prioritize Access – Each step of the way this year we stopped and asked ourselves how we could walk the line between serving our current members while also extending a welcoming hand to evaluators who would otherwise not be able to participate in our programs. Being more intentional about inclusivity was likely one of the factors that resulted in our expanded membership.
  • Recognize that you can’t do it all at once, but you can do ALOT and lay the foundation for the road ahead – We all felt a real urgency to meet the moment this year and come together to effect positive change in the field of evaluation. Looking back at the year that has passed, I can see we did alot but I also know there were many things we did not have the time to address and it is with confidence that I am passing the baton over to Esther Nolton, our incoming WE President. I know that Esther will continue to push WE in new directions.

I also know from participating in the AEA Local Affiliate Collaborative that there are many affiliates doing incredible work in service of their local and regional evaluation communities. So if you have not checked out your #localaffiliate yet, definitely take a moment to do so now!

It’s truly incredible to see how much WE accomplished in 2021 and it’s all due to the collective efforts of so many people: All of the board members who juggled their personal and professional commitments while still making space to serve WE and all of the members who participated in our various activities and events. In the coming days, I hope you will enjoy learning more about WE!

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Washington Evaluators (WE) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from WE Affiliate 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@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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