Originally posted on AEA 365's Tip a Day by and for Evaluators for the Local Arrangements Working Group sponsored week.
by Brian Yoder
My name is Brian Yoder, and I am the Director of Assessment, Evaluation, and Institutional Research at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). I also serve as chair of EvalAction 2017, which is co-sponsored by the American Evaluation Association (AEA), Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) and Washington Evaluations (WE). This initiative coordinates AEA members attending the conference in Washington, D.C. to visit the office of their congressional representative to discuss the value of evaluation in government and to drop off a packet of materials created by EPTF and AEA.
The idea of engaging congressional members in evaluation comes from six years ago when I was working as a temporary civil servant as evaluation manger in the education office of a science and technology focused federal agency. I was charged with providing subject matter expertise for a data system that tracks the agency’s education investments, nationally; and developing capacity to evaluate national education programs. Working for this agency, I found the guidance put out by AEA’s Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) useful to share with colleagues. I would share the documents to help explain the merits of program evaluation, and I believed that government evaluation could be improved by agencies following the program evaluation guidance of AEA and the EPTF.
I was also active in Washington Evaluators, the local Washington, D.C. AEA affiliate which hosts monthly brownbag sessions on a variety of evaluation topics important to government that were often well attended by staff from federal agencies, but staff from congressional offices never attended. I thought there should be a way to engage congressional offices in discussions of the value of evaluation in government, but living in D.C. didn’t provide many opportunities. Visits to congressional offices by D.C. residents likely would be ignored and visits by civil servants were discouraged. However, if congressional offices were visited by residents they serve, the visitors would have the opportunity to speak with congressional staffers about evaluation and promote AEA’s principles of evaluation.
When I learned that the 2013 AEA conference would be in Washington, D.C. I approached AEA’s executive director with the idea of WE working with EPTF to coordinate AEA members coming to Washington, D.C. to visit the office of their congressional representative. After several meetings to discuss the scope of the initiative, Evaluators Visit Capitol Hill, as it was called at the time, was launched in the summer of 2013. In the fall of 2013, despite a government shut-down, a total of 69 AEA members from 31 states and the District of Columbia participated in the initiative. The promotion of quality evaluation and evidence-based policy making in government is more important than ever.
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