Happy New Year, Washington Evaluators members! As I begin my year as WE President, I would like to thank Giovanni Dazzo, WE’s 2019 President, as well as the 2019 Board of Directors and its committee members. This incredibly talented group of volunteers worked tirelessly last year to provide highly engaging activities and services for members, ranging from professional development programs to museum visits and mentoring experiences. We also officially launched our pro bono evaluation support program, Evaluation Without Borders. During 2019, Washington Evaluators experienced unparalleled growth, with our membership increasing to just shy of 400 members.
We begin 2020 with a very successful year behind us, and a most auspicious year ahead – the start of a new decade. Some of you may recall that six years ago, the American Evaluation Association (AEA) board embarked on a multi-year discussion to reimagine the association in 2020. AEA’s Ends Goals statements projected a forward-thinking vision for 2020 as to “how the organization, its members and society as a whole would be impacted if AEA were successful in all of its endeavors.” Rereading these Ends Goals in 2020, they hold up well – an aspirational vision for an evaluation community of practice in which:
- Members interact to promote high quality evaluation practice and professional leadership.
- Members benefit from professional affiliation, leadership opportunities, and inclusion within a diverse community.
- Members have the competencies needed to engage in high quality evaluation that is edifying, ethical, culturally and contextually responsive, useful, and that demonstrates scholarship.
- Student members have ample opportunities to develop the leadership skills and competencies needed to practice evaluation, contribute to the association, and the evaluation knowledge base.
- Evaluation contributes to increased public understanding of challenging issues and solutions.
As the organization’s president this year, my primary goal is to support Washington Evaluators’ continued growth as a community of practice that fulfills this vision. To that end, my priorities focus on two broad themes: 1) building capacity for public good, and 2) nurturing our community of practice.
Building capacity for public good. We begin 2020 with a bold commitment to building the capacity of individuals and organizations to engage in evaluation. The new Community Engagement committee is charged with overseeing initiatives that intentionally grow and sustain our evaluation community of practice and extend the reach of evaluation into the broader Washington, DC, community, and beyond. This committee will provide opportunities for members to develop through mentoring and to build capacity of local non-profits and community-based organizations through the continuing pro bono initiative, Evaluation Without Borders, which matches evaluators to non-profits and community-based organizations seeking program planning, measurement, and evaluation services.
Support for emerging evaluators is an important focus this year. This year, we will offer our New Professional Scholarship, which provides support to new evaluators interested in attending courses at The Evaluators’ Institute. WE will also engage our organizational sponsors in supporting a career fair for students. These activities help ensure a strong start for the next generation of evaluators in our community.
Nurturing our community of practice. The 2020 Board will proudly sustain community-building through professional development and networking activities. Members can build professional competencies by participating in a book discussion or attending a brown bag presentation, or expand their networks at a happy hour, or simply get to know their evaluation peers while touring a museum or visiting a local nonprofit on a field trip – whatever your motivation or interest for getting involved with Washington Evaluators, you’ll find programs that meet your needs. Watch for a members’ survey soon where you can provide input on the types of members-only programming and communications that you would like to see.
WE is a 100% volunteer organization, and we benefit from strong partners that help us serve our community better. I’d like to recognize The Evaluators’ Institute, which provides a discount on course registration to Washington Evaluators members in addition to co-sponsoring events throughout the year; and The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which hosts Washington Evaluators presentations quarterly in their downtown D.C. offices. I’d also like to recognize our newest partner, SUNY/Center for International Development, who recently agreed to provide WE members a discount on its Adaptive Management Theory and Practice for International Development course and plans to co-sponsor a lecture event this March. A special thanks is also owed to our organizational sponsors – leaders in demonstrating support for evaluation in our region, and partnering with us on professional development and networking events.
Finally, I challenge our members to get actively involved in WE: join us at events, sign up as a volunteer or mentor, and participate in Board meetings and events. When I first joined WE in 2011, I began attending events hoping to learn more about my new field of practice. I found in WE more than I expected: opportunities to grow professionally, new friends, and, through my board involvement, a chance to grow and flex my leadership skills. Make one of your New Year’s resolutions to get more involved with WE in 2020 and become an active contributor to building our community of practice in the Washington, D.C. area.
Patricia Moore Shaffer