Washington Evaluators Affiliate Week: Power of the Pivot – Programming that Meets the Moment by Esther Nolton

Hello AEA365 friends! My name is Esther Nolton and I had the pleasure of serving as the 2021 Program Chair for Washington Evaluators (WE) and now have the honor of stepping up as the 2022 President. As I take a moment to reflect on our programs in 2021, I am appreciating how much our incredible Program Committee accomplished! Here are some things we did that might be helpful to other local affiliates who are thinking about ways they can lean into pivoting their programming:

Rad Resource:

In Summer 2020, we conducted a survey to get member feedback about engagement and programming opportunities. We received great insights from members about how they wanted WE to program during the pandemic and how best to incorporate our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism (see WE’s commitment to anti-racism). We used their feedback to inform decisions about session types/formats, frequency, time/day, and topics that would work best for the most people in our community.

Hot Tip:

There were great advantages in our pivot to virtual programming. It allowed us to be more innovative and inclusive than ever before. We had no limits on where our speakers or attendees could be, and only minor changes had to be made to accommodate our new format and facilitate our ability to deliver high quality programs to our members (i.e. increasing our Zoom account type to accommodate larger meetings and updating our standard operating procedures). We also increased access to the content by providing event materials and recordings to WE members afterwards, even if they did not register or attend. If you are a WE member, you can find those resources here.

Cool Tricks:

Approximately 15% of our programs were free and open to the public. These events were strategically selected to give people access to our programs who normally would not have been able to attend. In order to preserve the value of our membership, however, the majority of our programs were only offered to members as one of the many benefits of WE membership. Also, don’t skip out on the fun! While our members spent a lot of time building their skills, we also mixed in a number of social events that served to facilitate networking and community. If you do it right, you can even have successful events that foster both learning and laughing! 

Lesson Learned:

Although moving all programming to be virtual in the pandemic presented some challenges, it also led to many unique opportunities for WE. Ultimately, we were able to more than double our programming from 2020 and held about 47 virtual events in 2021. (What?! Yes.) Of our 65 speakers, about a quarter were not from the DC region. We were still able to hold events of different formats and all of our events had a focus on centering diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism both in the content and also in who we invited. 

Whew, 2021 was wild, but WE rolled with the changes and delivered a superb line up for our community. We are insanely proud of our organization and grateful for the energy that all our amazing volunteers, speakers, and attendees brought to our sessions. We had rich discussions and somehow managed to grow closer as a community in a time when we could not be physically together. Thank you to all who contributed to such a phenomenal year for Washington Evaluators. Here’s to continuing that momentum forward in 2022 and beyond. We hope to see you at a future Washington Evaluators event


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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