Washington Evaluators Week: Recounting Evaluation Without Borders: Experiences and Observations by Jacqueline Singh

Hello! My name is Jacqueline Singh, MPP, PhD., Executive Evaluation and Program Design Advisor at Qualitative Advantage, LLC. I’m also Co-chair of the American Evaluation Association’s Program Design Topical Interest Group and Board Member at Large for Indiana Evaluation Association. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had been homesick for the East coast. Therefore, it made good sense for me to get more connected through Washington Evaluators (WE)!

One of my earlier engagements with WE was initiated during the 2017 AEA conference. I had the difficult decision of choosing to participate in the pilot year of Evaluation without Borders (EWB), the pro-bono evaluation consulting program of WE, or EvalAction, an initiative coordinating conference attendees’ visits to the office of their congressional representative to discuss the value of evaluation in government. I wanted to do both, but chose the latter. Luckily, I learned about a second opportunity to participate in EWB during the 2018 AEA conference and jumped at the opportunity. That year, the program aimed to connect AEA conference attendees with local nonprofits and community-based organizations seeking program planning, measurement and evaluation services. I was unsure of what to expect. Pro-bono consultants in the program were also international attendees, which made it even more exciting. Straight out the gate, I received a warm and welcoming email from Seema Mahato, the Ohio Program Evaluators’ Group (OPEG) board member leading this initiative, stating they were creating a pool of non-profit organizations interested in receiving pro-bono consultation during the conference. OPEG is an organization that promotes quality evaluation and research in Ohio. In partnership with WE, they made the entire process move along smoothly from start to finish. 

Within the next couple days, I was e-introduced to nonprofit staff and we immediately began communicating. It was that easy! Our consultation was engaging and fit in with my conference schedule. It was co-facilitated by myself and Krisanna Machtmes, Associate Professor, Research Methods and Evaluation at the Ohio University in amazing facilities of the Cleveland Public Library. We were matched with a nonprofit agency that provides comprehensive behavioral health care. Our half day session included the breadth of evaluation concepts—and, an in-depth analysis of departmental surveys and dashboards. The challenges of developing and implementing evaluation methods within the organization, as well as the importance of change management processes, were apparent. Consequently, we worked together to unpack pressing issues that needed to be addressed and provided user-friendly resources afterwards. As this was my first time participating in EWB, it was gratifying to receive feedback from the non-profit organization that they felt the program was not only a valuable experience but also a great resource for other local agencies. They also eagerly supported its continuation.

Hot Tip:

This was a new platform for my participation in a pro bono evaluation capacity. It was efficient, effective—and, accorded valuable opportunities to work alongside my fellow AEA colleagues. Although our consultation lasted four hours, time flew by. There’s no doubt we could have talked longer! Working together provided the agency with a framework for moving forward. The engagement was thought-provoking for all parties concerned.

This post is part of a six-day series reflecting on lessons learned, highlighting best practices, and sharing recommendations from ‘Evaluation Without Borders’ (EWB), the Pro Bono Evaluation program of Washington Evaluators, a Washington D.C. area affiliate of the American Evaluation Association.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating 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.

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