Washington Evaluators Week: Why Evaluators Should Care About Building Community by Giovanni Dazzo

Hi, I’m Giovanni Dazzo, current President of Washington Evaluators and an evaluator at the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

This week, our local affiliate would like to hit pause on the research methods we typically share in these posts, in order to reflect and provide tips on how we can all build an engaged community of evaluators. This year, our affiliate focused on two broad themes: evaluation as community, and evaluation in the community. We set these priorities as a way to strive for the goals set by AEA, particularly those calling on us to establish a “diverse community of professionals”, and to develop the “capacity of communities and organizations to engage in evaluation”.

Why did we do this and why should evaluators care about building community?

Lesson Learned: “Having the same job or the same title does not make for a community of practice unless members interact and learn together.”

Anyone can host or attend events and activities for those in their local evaluation community; however, theories focusing on communities of practice stress that collective learning should occur so practitioners feel that they are full participants in a community. Throughout this week, WE members will share several tips on how to engage in mentorship and collective learning.

However, while we may share the same job titles, it is still necessary to define what it is to be an evaluator, and to establish the ethics, values, and diversity that we want to see in our field. Without these definitions, it becomes difficult for those outside our community to engage with us.

Lesson Learned: Not everyone knows what an evaluator does

As we were planning our pro bono initiative for the 2017 annual conference, we initially experienced challenges in finding community-based organizations and non-profits interested in working with pro bono evaluation teams. Discussions with community leaders often led to a series of questions: What exactly does an evaluator do? What is the purpose of evaluation? What benefits does my organization receive if I spend my time going through an evaluation?

As professionals, we may assume that others see the value in what we do. We may also be so focused on building our technical skills that we lose sight of how to engage with communities around us. After our initial challenges, we sought to utilize our pro bono initiative as a way to educate others about the discipline. This was done to not only enable surrounding communities to have informed and productive conversations about evaluation findings, but also to improve access to evaluation services. To learn more about the types of pro bono evaluation initiatives organized by various local affiliates, join us for a panel discussion at this year’s conference.

This week, as WE members share their experiences of building community, we hope it inspires you to think about and take action on how you can improve and push our field forward.


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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