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A Message from AEA President Kathy Newcomer: An Eye Toward 2017

Tue, January 31, 2017 7:05 PM | Nick Hart

Dr. Kathy Newcomer was Washington Evaluators President from 1995 to 1997.  She is currently serving as the President of the American Evaluation Association.  This message is reprinted from AEA's website

An Eye Toward 2017

From Kathy Newcomer, AEA President

Happy New Year! Thank you, AEA Members, for giving me this incredible opportunity to work with you to advance evaluation practice and our association! As I embark on this exhilarating journey, I am grateful for all the work that has gone before. Thank you, John Gargani, for leading our association, and thank you to our outgoing board members — Melvin Hall, Robin Miller, Donna Podems, and Stewart Donaldson — for all of your past and ongoing contributions. I look forward to welcoming and working with our new Board members — Rita Fierro, Veronica Olazabal, Deborah Rugg, and our President-Elect Leslie Goodyear! I am also delighted to continue working with our dedicated treasurer, Susan Tucker! We are fortunate to have such talented and committed evaluation professionals serving on the board, as TIG and affiliate leaders, and on working groups!

My goals for AEA over the coming year are to:

  • enhance engagement with our members, the broader evaluation community, and current and potential consumers of evaluation with several initiatives designed to promote learning through evaluation, and
  • boost our efforts to promote professionalization within our field, both domestically and with our many international partners.

Recognizing that our society has experienced some wrenching moments of divisiveness and sorrow over the last two years, and that there is uncertainty in the current political landscape that affects public policies, I want to remind us that program evaluation presents a tool to help society learn about itself and how to act in the public interest. To quote our guiding principles: “Evaluators have obligations that encompass the public interest and good. These obligations are especially important when evaluators are supported by publicly-generated funds; but clear threats to the public good should never be ignored in any evaluation. Because the public interest and good are rarely the same as the interests of any particular group (including those of the client or funder), evaluators will usually have to go beyond analysis of particular stakeholder interests and consider the welfare of society as a whole.” This obligation is indeed our challenge moving forward, but I know evaluators are up to the task!

For example, consider that inequality and social immobility have been vexing challenges for public policy at all levels of government and society for decades, even generations. While evaluation itself will not unilaterally address the factors that cause these issues to persist, understanding the role of socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic diversity in our world can enhance the context-appropriateness of our evaluations, and contribute to more informed recommendations about the policies and programs we evaluate, ultimately contributing to more fair and just society. To engage our members and communities this year I am happy to announce that, thanks to the vision and leadership of Dr. Melvin Hall,  AEA will convene three dialogues about the role of race and class in evaluation work and impact leading up to our November conference. The first of these dialogues will be held January 30 in Washington, D.C., followed by a second jointly convened with the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in San Antonio this May, and with CREA in Chicago in September — all culminating with a plenary at our November conference. We will live stream all three 90-minute dialogues, and have a special presentation at our Annual Conference in November in D.C.

As we continue to tackle the challenges faced by evaluators, intentional and strategic professionalization of our field is needed now more than ever. I will continue to work closely with our Competencies Task Force to develop our next steps in getting our competencies promoted and used. Along with our active Evaluation Policy Task Force, we will work to support and encourage the support of longer-term evaluation infrastructure that supports a range of methods as part of professionalization of evaluation.

Our TIGS and affiliates are key partners in professionalization efforts, and I will work closely with both sets of leaders to ensure we support collaborative initiatives. For example, I will work with the AEA management team, TIGs and affiliate leaders to support them in hosting more regional conferences, such as those pioneered by affiliates like the Eastern Evaluation Research Society (EERS), the Oregon Program Evaluators Network (OPEN), the Arizona Evaluation Network (AZENet), and others!

I have already begun collaborating with our fellow evaluation associations and key groups within the International Organizations of Evaluation, such as EVAL YOUTH, in endeavors such as EVAL YOUTH’s recent and highly successful Virtual Conference on December 2.

"From Learning to Action" is the theme of our Annual Conference, and in line with this theme, I challenge our members to:

  • Think creatively about innovative ways to engage audiences at the annual conference — please think beyond panels and posters, and submit something new;
  • Invite evaluators or evaluation users who might not normally attend AEA, but are clearly stakeholders in our work, to participate in conference sessions; and
  • Submit a 60 second video on learning from evaluation to highlight how we can foster learning from evaluation in a variety of settings. Please watch for contest guidelines to follow!

My door and ears are always open and I welcome engaging with our members to learn how AEA can better serve us and promote evaluation practice and evidence-informed policy and practice! Despite the challenges we may face, we are up to it! We have the capacity and skills to help society learn from evaluation! Please help me foster membership engagement — contact me at president@eval.org.

(c) 2017 Washington Evaluators

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