Wendy Tackett on Camp iEval

I’m Wendy Tackett, the president of iEval, part-time faculty at Western Michigan University, and a blogger at Carpe Diem: Make Your Evaluations Useful. I want to share about a fun way we get our evaluation clients engaged in evaluation…we call it Camp iEval!

The purpose of Camp iEval is to bring evaluation clients together who are working on similar programs and provide 1) training about understanding and using data, 2) analyses of current local data, 3) research on best practice strategies aligned to needs identified through data analyses, and 4) networking among colleagues.

Lessons Learned:

  • Location, location, location! We’ve hosted Camp iEval several times a year since 2010 in various formats – at my house, a client’s office, a hotel, and via Skype. We’ve found that the best location, by far, was my house! When people are comfortable, they’re much more receptive to open, honest discussions around data and sharing ideas for program improvements. We encourage informal attire and do a potluck lunch, making it a very relaxed atmosphere.
  • Variety is the spice of life! While we stick closely to the four components of the day, we change it up each time so people don’t get bored. We’ve done things like incorporated hands-on science experiments because the data showed science integration as a weakness, put on skits to illustrate the benefits of using evaluation, and solicited programs to give mini-presentations.
  • Have fun! Having fun while doing evaluation is one of the key tenets of our work. We have created silly awards (e.g., Miss Interpretation), gifted iEval blankets (it’s a running joke because I keep my house so cold), sang songs around a guitar, and eaten tons of homemade goodies.
  • Relationships are key! I’m sure you’ll agree that the most valuable time at any conference is the networking time, whether formal or informal. We plan formal networking time (i.e., specifically asking programs to share on strategies that have been successful based on our data analyses) and informal networking time (e.g., not a working lunch, general sharing at the end of the day). Because of the casual atmosphere of Camp iEval, the project staff feel comfortable sharing their own data with each other, asking deep questions, visiting each other’s programs, and knowing there are people they can go to for support.

Hot Tip: If you’re interested in finding out more about how to create your own evaluation camp, look for any of the iEval team members at Evaluation 2015 in Chicago. We’re submitting a demonstration proposal; but if we don’t end up presenting, we’d be happy to share more insight informally!

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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