Happy New Year, Washington Evaluators members! As I begin my year as WE President, I would like to thank Stephanie Cabell, WE’s President in 2018, as well as the 2018 Board of Directors and its committee members. Each year, our dedicated volunteers spend countless hours managing the day-to-day operations of the organization. As we start this year, I welcome you to review our history as a professional association—noting not only our accomplishments but encouraging you to send us your ideas on how we can continue to improve.
I would now like to turn my attention to my priorities as WE’s 2019 President, focusing on two broad themes: (1) evaluation as community, and (2) evaluation in the community.
These priorities highlight a continued focus on increasing our membership base, improving the efficiency of our operations, and enhancing pipelines for local leadership. As a local affiliate of the American Evaluation Association (AEA), I would like to advocate that we strive to reach the goals set by AEA, especially those calling on us to establish a “diverse community of professionals”, and to develop the “capacity of communities and organizations to engage in evaluation” (AEA Mission, Vision, Values and Governing Policies, 2016).
Sustaining membership services and supporting diversity, inclusion, and engagement within our evaluation community. We have a strong tradition of offering professional development and social events for the evaluation community in the Washington, D.C area. In addition to continuing these events, this year, WE will also focus on programming that is of interest to emerging evaluators. Additionally, we will be revamping our New Professional Scholarship to provide support to new evaluators interested in attending courses at The Evaluators’ Institute. This helps us to ensure that WE continues to lay the groundwork for the next generation in our community.
Planning a variety of events and initiatives, however, does not, in itself, ensure meaningful inclusion and engagement. In line with the Dialogue on Race and Class in America—which was co-sponsored by AEA, WE, and the Trachtenberg School at George Washington University in 2017—the WE Board will be continuing this discussion during our planning processes. By taking intentional steps to reflect on questions of identity and power, I hope we can address issues of race, gender, and class in all aspects of our operations, from programming to communications to scholarships.
In the coming months, we will also be distributing a membership engagement survey where you can provide input on the types of members-only programming and communications that you would like to see. As an immediate step, please visit your member profile page to select your interests and the AEA topical interest groups to which you belong (after logging in to the website, click on your name, View Profile, and then Edit Profile). This information will aid us in our efforts to organize events that draw on our members’ interests. This also assists members in finding peers in the Member Directory, and allows the Board to efficiently match mentors and mentees for our ongoing Mentor Minutes program. After assessing the state of Mentor Minutes, we will be refining this members-only program, with new volunteers and increased communication with those interested in participating.
To create connections between our professional association and other communities of practice, we will be coordinating with AEA Topical Interest Groups to advertise events and communications to members and non-members in the region. We are in the process of increasing our engagement with other local affiliates and voluntary organizations for professional evaluation based in the United States and abroad, through joint programming and virtual peer-to-peer exchanges.
That said, while these efforts assist us in broadening our community of practice, we must also meaningfully connect with our more immediate neighborhoods and communities. As a professional association, the Board aims to not only guarantee the sustainability of our association, but to ensure that those outside our community of practice understand and value what we do.
Ensuring our membership is engaged in the broader Washington, D.C. community. In addition to our regular programming (e.g., brown bags, happy hours, sine qua non dinners), you will notice that this year, our social events will mirror the programming that we undertook in 2017 and during the 2017 AEA annual conference. Every four years, our Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG) curates events around the city for those visiting for the AEA conference. By taking advantage of our existing Program Committee and LAWG infrastructure, we aim to increase the number and variety of events offered to members. Activities will include group visits to museums such as the Renwick Gallery, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Anacostia Community Museum; institutions such as NPR and other cultural venues; and, gatherings at baseball games and outdoor events. We hope members find these events to be intellectually and culturally stimulating, as well as a way to engage with fellow evaluators by exploring the Washington, D.C. area.
We will also draw on the success of our previous pro bono initiative, Evaluation Without Borders, which matches evaluators to non-profits and community-based organizations seeking program planning, measurement, and evaluation services. After WE piloted this initiative during Eval2017, we spent last year establishing the operational foundation to offer this as a permanent programming option. We will officially launch our EWB program during the week of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, to commemorate his legacy of civic engagement and community service. If you are interested in sharing your skills, we encourage you to complete our pro bono evaluator form, as we will be matching volunteers soon. If you know of an organization interested in pro bono support, please refer them to our client interest form.
As we start another year, I encourage you to provide feedback to the Board, sign up as a volunteer or mentor, and participate in Board meetings and events. I hope this year brings you the opportunity to not only engage with our community of practice, but to also see how evaluators can promote the public good in the Washington, D.C. area.