Eval 2013 Musings

October 20, 2013

OK, back from EVALUATION 2013 and decompressing. You know how it is at conferences. You start out with lots of energy and then by the end, your head is pounding with presentation tidbits and ideas.

Day 1

I attended Melanie Hwalek’s workshop on Writing a Winning Evaluation Proposal. It was a great, interactive workshop with some good tips on making the go/no go decision on whether to propose. She shared her win/loss record over the last 10 years and shared insight into understanding and responding to the spirit of proposals.

Later, at the poster session and reception, I served at the Community Psych TIG (Topical Interest Group) information table with Susan Wolfe (Thank you!). Finally, we were off to the PhilanthroPub for some social time with the Systems TIG.

Day 2

Day 2 found me up (way too stinkin’) early for the Non-Profit TIG’s Business meeting where Patricia Patrizi gave a talk on “Measurement as Misdirection.”  She offered a cautionary note about the misuse of data dashboards and data visualization. Funders and boards, and I would say programs as well, tend to oversimplify complex social issues in a rush to find linear, causal actions and outcomes. Check out more of her thoughts and those of her colleagues in the latest edition of the Foundation Review 2013, Volume 5:3 – Eyes Wide Open: Learning as Strategy under Conditions of Complexity and Uncertainty.

The highlight of Day 2 was the CP TIG’s first annual “Walk the Talk” event.  The CP TIG’s webmaster, Susan Ryerson-Espino did all the heavy lifting to organize the outing (Great job Susan!).  One DC, a community-based advocacy group, led us on a walk of the Shaw neighborhood. One DC advocates for housing and economic equity and uses appreciative inquiry to evaluate their work. I think they gave all of us a lot to think about. Talk about grass-roots organizing! I wish I could take them to ATL with me.

The really good news? We had 15 people sign up for the event but 40 people showed up! This caused a few logistic issues, but all in all – a great first effort. We hope we can do this at every AEA so that we can learn a little about our host city and learn about community psychology and evaluation in action. Let me know if you have any suggestions or contacts in Denver for EVALUATION 2014. Susan Wolf and I dashed out early to make it back to the TIG business meeting in time. Then it was on to Bus Boys & Poets for networking and dinner with other community psychologists.


The highlight of Friday was hearing Penny Foster-Fishman and Erin Watson talk about their ABLe Change Framework. I was really struck by Penny’s statement about helping clients think about and generate their own recommendations. She even had a client mentioned that she never spoke them in statements- she just posed a series of questions to get them thinking about their own work. I think I may have to try that in my own practice.

This year there were more presentations than ever on using technology for evaluation. Shawn Hime, from the University of Wyoming, gave a standing-room-only (literally!) presentation on using Excel to create data entry forms. I hope Shawn thinks of making this a half-day workshop.

Day 4

Final day at AEA started with 7 AM breakfast with other TIG leaders. It was great to see the amazing Susan Kistler and meet the new AEA team. Looks like the call for proposals for AEA 2104 will be out even earlier than ever. Eee-gads! I was able to brag on the Community Psych TIG’s Walk the Talk and rumor has it the event made it into the twittersphere.

I decided to take it easy the rest of the morning and hang in THE spot for networking- the lobby. I was fortunate to be seated next to Stephanie Evergreen so I took the opportunity to share with her my recent “when all hell break’s loose story.” You know, one of those times when you prepped for a meeting, prepared beautiful, compelling slides that tell a program’s story and your audience has a completely different agenda?

After snagging the last copy of Stephanie’s new book in the vendor area, it was time to take off to the airport to head back to ATL. But not before networking with some internal evaluators and hearing about some potential leads. My head is pounding but excited about putting some new ideas into our practice for our awesome clients.

Post Conference Fun

I was kicking myself for not meeting Chris Lysy so I thought I would check out his latest cartoons yesterday. He asked EVAL 2013 attendees for ideas so I sent him mine. It gave me a great laugh to start my week! Check it out here http://freshspectrum.com/eval13-day-four/ and look for more of Chris’s evaluation humor on his blog.