We are Stephanie Shipman and Valerie Caracelli, working in the Center for Evaluation Methods and Issues at the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Our Center’s mission is to further evaluation at GAO and in the federal government by studying agency evaluation activities and policies and sharing knowledge and resources. Last November GAO reported the results of our survey of Performance Improvement Officers about their agencies’ capacity to conduct and use program evaluations and the usefulness of capacity building activities and resources. We found that evaluation capacity is very uneven across these agencies, but two-thirds of these senior managers noted that staff participation in professional conferences or evaluation interest groups was especially useful in improving agency capacity to conduct credible evaluations and use their results in decision making.
Hot Tip: Engaging in professional networks is one powerful way to build evaluation capacity in a budget-constrained environment.
Capacity Building through Communities of Practice: There are a number of networks in the Washington, DC area that serve as supportive communities of practice for evaluators. Two long-standing ones include Washington Evaluators, an AEA local affiliate, and Federal Evaluators, an informal network of over a thousand federal employees, headed up by Stephanie. These groups offer professional development opportunities, share resources, and provide relevant, timely information on what is happening “around town” with regard to evaluation and government performance. More recently, the Performance Improvement Officers and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) formed networks to exchange evaluation tips and evidence-based management practices. In addition, individual agencies have their own networks and occasionally hold conferences. In July, the Department of Education hosted Innovation Exchange 2015 which brought together officials from several agencies who described a variety of results-focused strategies and innovative practices. The event was co-sponsored by several White House Offices. This article published in Government Executive summarizes useful observations from the sessions.
Rad Resource: Are you from the D.C. area? See David Bernstein’s June 2, 2014 WE post on Sustaining an Evaluation Community of Practice and join WE.
Rad Resource: Are you a federal employee interested in evaluation of programs and policies? Join Federal Evaluators by contacting Stephanie Shipman at email@example.com .
Let’s not forget to register for AEA’s conference in November with all the capacity building opportunities it will provide!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.