The well-organized and visionary Francophone evaluation network (RFE) conference in Marrakesh was an inspiration for me as Co-Chair of this year’s Canadian Evaluation Society Conference. I had the good fortune to connect with the President of host organization Moroccan Evaluation Association, Jamal Ramdane, Jean-Marie Loncle from the Francophone evaluation network, and Program Coordinator Mouna el Ghormli from the Moroccan Evaluation Association, who gracefully shared their insights on organizing a successful conference with me. Continue reading
There are many academic reasons to attend CES Vancouver but the social activities will guarantee to be a highlight of your trip. Whether it is taking in the sights and sounds of beautiful Vancouver, chatting with a new acquaintance at morning exercises, or catching up with old colleagues at the evaluator dinners, this conference has something for everyone. Continue reading
Some conference themes resonate with me more than others. When I saw this one I thought, “Yes!” Innovation, action, and reflection are all things that have been on my mind lately as an evaluator. Let me tell you why.
I took my first evaluation course in 1988 and went out on my own as an independent consultant in 1998. So as you can imagine I have a few years to reflect on. My first CES conference was Toronto 1990. For years it seemed to me there was nothing new in evaluation, and probably for good reason. We were still a young, relatively new profession and everyone was busy building our reputation and seeking acceptance. Fast forward to 2005-2006 and things seemed to really take off. Now everywhere I look I see innovation being introduced into the field, and it’s very exciting. From boundary-pushing reports to previously unthinkable forms of data collection, the times they are a changin’. Sometimes it freaks me out as I try to keep up, but it’s still exciting. Continue reading
The American Evaluation Association Conference in 2016 was big. Atlanta was my second AEA conference and with 50 concurrent sessions, I was never going to get to half of the presentations I wanted to see. At my first conference in 2015 I was excited to see the famous people whose articles I had been reading as a student and I was drawn to sessions by Tom Schwandt, Michael Quinn Patton, Beverley Parsons, Michael Scriven and George Grob. This time I decided to prioritize sessions related to my research and I ended up joining the Advocacy and Policy-Change Topical Interest group. It was great to meet people exploring similar questions and sharing their understandings from interdisciplinary theory and practical experience.
We received a record setting 357 proposals!
That’s a 30% increase over the previous record, set by the 2015 conference in Montreal, which received 275 proposals. In addition, we received 43 workshop proposals. As one of the program co-chairs, I am excited both by the depth and breadth of proposals, which will allow us to put together an amazing program to offer on our theme of Facing Forward: Innovation, Action, and Reflection. Moreover, this signals that there is a lot of interest from the evaluation community in attention our conference next spring!
Now to look a little more closely at the numbers..
It’s most definitely fall in Saskatoon – nights dip below freezing, the trees have shed most of their leaves, and it’s only a matter of time before the snow hits1. Another sign of fall? Upcoming due dates to submit presentations for conferences, including the Canadian Evaluation Society’s 2017 conference in Vancouver.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the conference and its theme of Facing Forward: Innovation, Action, and Reflection. Today, I’d like to focus on Innovation – but instead of looking at innovation in evaluation, let’s talk innovation in conferences. My experiences at evaluation conferences (both in Canada and south of the border) have been overwhelmingly positive: at the same time, I’m aware that these events can be criticized for not being the most effective use of time and resources. Indeed, there are numerous ways today that we can learn from others without having to leave the comfort of home – including blogs such as this one! As a result, it’s a legitimate question to ask whether it’s worth spending hundreds of dollars (if not thousands, when you account for travel and accommodations) to make the trip. Continue reading
My son is four and has been asking some really interesting questions lately. Did someone put the moon up in the sky? Can you turn the stars off with our light switch? From an early age, we learn about the world through questions, many of which parents can be entirely unprepared for. If there is one thing that I want him to keep alive and refine in school is the impetus to always ask questions, to think critically and to get answers, or as close as we can to them. Luckily this is something that we value in Canadian society. You can even grow up to be an evaluator! (Though fire fighter, doctor and nurse are still top of his mind)
The heart of evaluation lies in critical thinking. We are not experts in a program but we can help those who are part of it to step back, ask good questions, and uncover the answers. Fundamentally we help people look at what they are doing in a new way. Continue reading
From previous blog posts (see here, here, here, and here), you can tell that I’m a fan of expanding my skills and learning in evaluation through conferences. Attending these events, hosted by the Canadian Evaluation Society and the American Evaluation Association, has also connected me into a diverse community of practitioners, academics, consultants, students, grantmakers, government officials, and more who are brought together by a common interest in the field of evaluation. Given this blend of learning, sharing, and connecting, I try to make it out to these conferences whenever circumstances allow.
The next Canadian Evaluation Society conference will be taking place in Vancouver from April 30 to May 3, and I’m excited for a couple of reasons – not least because Vancouver is a beautiful city to visit, relatively close (well, close by Canadian standards, at least) to my home base of Saskatoon, and home to several evaluation colleagues and friends. What really piqued my interest is an initiative for the conference that’s being led by one of those colleagues and friends, Sarah Farina of Broadleaf Consulting. Evaluators are being encouraged to blog on the conference theme (Facing Forward: Innovation, Action and Reflection) in the months leading up to the conference. It’s a neat way to start the conversation well in advance of the meeting itself, and hopefully have it continue afterwards! Continue reading
It’s now only 7 and a-half months before the 2017 Canadian Evaluation Society Conference begins. Thinking back on the journey to date, one of the early tasks that stands out for me was the process of identifying a theme. I was tasked with leading that process so I started by sitting down with a pen and paper and a BIG cup of coffee. I wrote down words and concepts that I felt represented what I’ve been hearing my evaluation colleagues and students talk about. That list was revisited and revised many times after conversations with Co-Chair, Sarah Farina and a host of others who engaged in the conversation. Just looked at my computer files and my first theme document was created in May 2015!
After several meetings and months of collecting feedback from a wide range of people, in April 2016 we landed on our 2017 conference theme–“Facing Forward: Innovation, Action and Reflection”. After that meeting I celebrated (not with coffee!). We are pleased with the response we’ve received to date; this theme seems to be resonating well with people. So far, we’ve heard unsolicited comments like “love the theme”, “exciting”, “great theme”. This feedback has made us all very happy! J Continue reading
I’m delighted to be Co-chairing the 2017 CES conference with Chris Lovato. My first introduction to CES was at the 2010 conference in Victoria. I’d been working in evaluation for many years, including conducting training in monitoring and evaluation. At that time, though, I wasn’t familiar with evaluation as a discipline.
What struck me most about the conference was how collegial attendees were, and how curious they were to learn. I enjoyed the sessions I attended, and more than that, I savoured the open and exploratory conversations that took place throughout the event. Almost every session made me feel like I’d finally come home. People were friendly, used a language I understood, and talked about topics I cared about. I felt from that time that I was joining a community of people working in the same realm, though the boundaries were still being worked out. Continue reading