As 2017 comes to a close, our profession has much to celebrate. 2017 was a fantastic year for the evaluation field in Washington, DC.
At the outset of 2017 when my term as president of Washington Evaluators began, I outlined three of my overarching priorities for the organization this year: to strengthen the national evaluation community, enhance our organizational services, and to improve our infrastructure for the sustainability of Washington Evaluators. We made tremendous progress in addressing each of these three priorities throughout the year.
I am proud of all that the Board and volunteer members of Washington Evaluators were able to accomplish in just 12 short months. Thank you to all of the volunteers who supported Washington Evaluators activities this year. As we reflect on the past year, I want to briefly highlight several accomplishments of our organization in 2017.
Strengthening the National Evaluation Community
Throughout the year Washington Evaluators partnered with numerous organizations to host events and dialogues to advance evaluation practice, and strengthen the interactions between evaluators not just here in DC but from around the country.
- Early this year Washington Evaluators co-sponsored a dialogue for our field to discuss the role of race and class in evaluation. The event, co-sponsored with the American Evaluation Association and George Washington University, was the first of four sessions that ended with a capstone plenary at the fall AEA conference here in Washington.
- In September, following the release of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking's report, Washington Evaluators partnered with AEA, George Washington University, and the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis to sponsor an event for dialogue about how to proceed in implementing the Commission's recommendations. The event attracted more than 150 attendees including individuals from fields that partner with evaluators to begin a discussion that continues today about next steps for improving the entire evidence-building community.
- In November, Washington Evaluators' volunteers led excellent initiatives during the fall AEA #Eval17 conference, and more than one-third of our membership participated in panels. Brian Yoder's leadership in EvalAction, an initiative conducted in partnership with AEA's Evaluation Policy Task Force, led to more than 100 evaluators volunteering to visit with congressional staff and Congressmen to discuss the field of evaluation this fall. Giovanni Dazzo and Jonathan Jones co-chaired the Local Arrangements Working Group in preparation for the fall AEA conference, and did a tremendous job launching new initiatives such as the Evaluation without Borders effort to encourage evaluators to give back to the community during the conference. And Washington Evaluators members contributed $600 to support five graduate students from around the country participating in the #Eval17 conference.
Each of these events and contributions made substantial in-roads to strengthening the evaluation profession not just here in DC, but by demonstrating the value of evaluation and future directions for evaluation across the country.
Enhancing Evaluation Services and Benefits in DC
While Washington Evaluators this year exhibited leadership for evaluators across the country, our volunteers also designed and led numerous efforts to enhance the benefits of membership for our local evaluators right here in Washington, DC.
- As Washington Evaluators revamped its communications efforts under the leadership of Patricia Shaffer, our members received improved weekly digests with job announcements and opportunities for events around the city.
- Our program committee, led by Giovanni Dazzo, coordinated ten professional development events ranging from discussions with the Government Accountability Office to former AEA president Rodney Hopson. Many of these events were made available to members through new virtual participation options.
- The program committee also sought out new opportunities for evaluators to productively network with each other at social events, including Washington Evaluators' first event at Nationals Park, and our membership committee chaired by Robin Kelley hosted its second members-only meet and greet.
- Washington Evaluators launched a new short-term mentoring program to better meet the needs of our members, led by Nick Zyznieuski. Nearly a dozen of our members participated in the program as mentees this year and we expect the initiative to grow further in coming years.
- Finally, recognizing that DC is a large city and sometimes events may be difficult to attend downtown during the workday to interact with fellow evaluators, this year Washington Evaluators hosted the Sine Qua Non dinner series, where we made an effort to connect evaluators to those who live and work in close proximity to each other. Throughout the year, Washington Evaluators volunteers hosted nine dinners attended by dozens of members to discuss their work, the state of the evaluation profession, and suggestions for the DC evaluation community.
We hope that all Washington Evaluators members personally experienced many of the specific benefits of membership throughout the year by attending an event or participating in one of the many activities available to members.
Reinforcing Organizational Infrastructure
While the business matters of Washington Evaluators are rarely the most exciting for many members -- there are many encouraging actions undertaken this year that will hopefully shape the future direction of the organization for years to come.
- The Board developed a robust, long-term strategic plan, and with member input approved a plan outlining new and ambitious goals for the organization. To support implementation of the strategic plan the Board also approved an action plan for 2017, and completed 43 of 50 of the items in that plan in full and 5 in part or with some modification from the original plan (2 items deferred for future action).
- The Communications Committee in 2017 engaged in a full rebranding of the organization with a new logo and by launching a new website that is easier to navigate and with greater visual appeal. In addition, the social media presence was substantially enhanced with an active and growing engagement on Twitter and LinkedIn.
- The Membership Committee led an effort to revise how members join and retain a relationship with the organization, Washington Evaluators this year launched a two year membership status and the new organizational sponsor status. To date more than 30 members have changed their status to two year memberships and four organizations have signed up as sponsors.
- The long-term infrastructure of the organization is built on the engagement and participation of dozens of volunteers. In recognition of the important role volunteers play in the success of Washington Evaluators, we are pleased to be able to recognize a volunteer of the year for the first time in 2017.
2017 was a phenomenally energizing year for Washington Evaluators as an organization and for all evaluators in Washington, DC. In addition to the many achievements of Washington Evaluators throughout the year, policymakers in DC renewed calls for institutionalizing evaluation in the federal government. With the American Evaluation Association's annual conference in DC as a backdrop, the U.S. Congress advanced legislation to encourage more evaluation in agencies across government. We have much to look forward to in coming years!
Thank you to all who supported the many activities of the organization and strengthening our evaluation community in 2017. Please join me especially in thanking the entire Washington Evaluators Board of Directors and leaders of our many task forces for their leadership this year.
I hope you will continue to be engaged next year as well to support our growing community of evaluation practice!
NICK HART, PHD is the 2017 President of Washington Evaluators.