It’s all about relationships: Reflections from Eval 2014

Evaluation Musings 2014

It was this time last year that I started blogging. I blame it all on @clysy…..I read one of Chris’s blogs and started following his cartoons. Through his Eval Central feed, I stumbled across other evaluators that were blogging. This reignited my inner creative writer I buried long ago in high school. When I returned home from EVAL 2013, I wrote My first blog and kept writing. I don’t write often. I try for once a month or so; mainly I write when an idea strikes me. 

So continuing, how I got stated blogging, this blog is about reflections from EVAL 2014. Sometimes when I go to our annual conference, I leave with specific ideas or new skills I want to explore. Returning from Denver, from what was a very busy EVAL 2014, I seem to have mainly disjointed thoughts running through my head. So this blog is a data dump of those ideas.

Basically, they all boil down to this central theme: Ultimately, our lives and our work are about relationships.

Relationship between others

Susan Wolfe and Walk attendees shop at WBP. The shop supports the WBP programs.

Susan Wolfe and Walk attendees shop at WBP. The shop supports the WBP programs.

  • I admit it; I was very reluctant to Tweet or use Facebook for my business. But doing so introduced me to a whole new world of folks that I would probably never have met before. Like @SheilaRobinson or @ChrisLysy. It was so much fun to finally meet them in person. I wish I had had a chance to meet @RakeshMohen and other fellow Eval-Tweeters. I really wish my conference schedule wasn’t as packed as it was so that I could have gotten to know them better.
  • Not all my American Evaluation Association (AEA) connections are through social media. In fact, most aren’t. For example, I met Susan Wolfe co-presenting on a panel with Gail Barrington a few years ago. After chatting for a few minutes, Susan and I discovered we were both community psychologists. Susan brought me back into the fold of SCRA and invited me to my first Community Psychology TIG meeting. The next thing I know, I am co-chair of the TIG, and this led me to even more relationships. I have connected not just with other community psychologists but with other folks in our TIG that practice within communities.

Relationships between Topical Interest Groups (TIGS)

  • Community Psychology TIG, Systems TIG, Empowerment TIG, Underserved Populations TIG, Participatory and Mixed Methods TIGS Oh my!…..I know the Community Psychology TIG has lots in common with these and probably many more TIGS. I bumped into Chad Green, another evaluator I met at EVAL 2013 and he shared that the K-12 Education TIG had been talking about the overlap between many TIGS. I heard this same idea expressed by someone at the TIG leaders’ breakfast. I heard it again from a panel presented by the Systems TIG. This got me thinking, as part of a “visionary evaluation” how can we find and capitalize on the commonalities between us? How can we maximize our differences to create a better world? I never fail to leave an AEA conference without pondering a deep question.
The Women's Bean Project

The Women’s Bean Project

Between and within organizations

  • How can TIGs maximize the experience and connections between all of their members? I know the Community Psych TIG has over 90 evaluators that select us as one of their five TIGs. How can we engage more of them in our work to support AEA? How can we attract more of them to our annual meeting? What can we do to cross pollinate with APA’s Division 27, the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA)?
  • Walk the Talk. It’s really important to me that I don’t only talk about social change, but that I do my best to work for social change. Two years ago, the Community Psychology TIG leadership started discussing what we could do to bring this perspective to our conference experience. We all agreed that while we enjoy our annual conference, talking about change for days on end can be well, exhausting and a bit empty. Thus, “Walk the Talk” was born. Last year we visited One DC. This year we visited The Women’s Bean Project (WBP). The WBP is a Denver nonprofit social enterprise that has served chronically unemployed and impoverished women for the last 25 years.

Learning about the WBP process of social enterprise.

  • About 27 conference attendees came to the Walk event traveling by light rail and walking through the WBP neighborhood. There we toured their facility and learned more about the WBP and their evaluation efforts. We were able to brainstorm with them on other things they could do to evaluate their work and communicate their success. Several of us will be helping them develop new program logic models and connecting them with local evaluators.

Sharing personal stories of how we got into this field, evaluation as intervention, and what does it mean to be a leader in this field? These are a few of my other random EVAL 2014 thoughts. More in future blogs….. What are your leftover EVAL 2014 thoughts?