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June 2018 Blog: Six Questions with Leslie Goodyear, AEA President

06/20/2018 3:20 PM | Greater Boston Evaluation Network (Administrator)

At our spring GBEN social meet-up, GBEN was very fortunate to have Leslie Goodyear, American Evaluation Association (AEA) President and Principal Research Scientist at EDC, join to talk about the upcoming AEA conference in November as well as her vision for the AEA.    

In addition to joining the spring meet-up, Leslie generously agreed to participate in a short six-question email interview with GBEN member, Marion Cabanes.    Enjoy!

© Leslie Goodyear

GBEN: In 2016 you were formally elected the next president of the American Evaluation Association.  You expressed a hope to foster a collaborative approach among evaluators within the association and among other organizations, policymakers, scholars and practitioners.  Reflecting back on more than one year of this vision, what collaborative dialogues have you witnessed and how do you envision continuing and developing further dialogues on the importance and use of evaluation?

Leslie:  Whoa! I said that?!? Just kidding. Both during my time as president-elect, and this year as president, I’ve had the chance to see how evaluators are influencing the field and those with power to influence policy. I speak mostly of what’s happening in AEA, but we know that every day, evaluators provide evidence and information to guide decision making and policy at multiple levels.

You may know that through the Guiding Principles Task Force and the Evaluator Competencies Task Force, members have influenced the review and revision of our ethical principles and helped to define a set of AEA Evaluator Competencies. Both Task Forces took their charge to solicit member input very seriously, and implemented processes that incorporated the ideas and opinions of hundreds of members (through surveys, focus groups, and other calls for information and input). The AEA Board just voted to adopt both, and we’ll be rolling them out before and at the 2018 conference. In addition, our Evaluation Policy Task Force has had multiple successes this year in influencing the development and implementation of federal evaluation policy. Their work is not necessarily loud, but has resulted in strong relationships with policymakers and other influencers in Washington. I have no doubt we’ll see more from them in the coming years, too. 

GBEN:  The field of evaluation has been evolving rapidly and seeing a greater diversity of evaluators of different stripes.  What do you think is the next era for evaluation in terms of innovations? Or what new fields could evaluation reach out to for informed decision making and organizational learning?

Leslie:  When I started in evaluation – many years ago – we were a field of academics and we debated whether it was appropriate to advocate for the programs we evaluate and we argued about quantitative versus qualitative methods. Things have changed a lot since then! Now, we’re primarily an association of evaluation practitioners, and we’ve moved on to incorporate and debate new approaches to evaluation (e.g., feminist, developmental, systems) and new positions on everything from equity and inclusion, advocacy, methods, program theory, and 3D logic models. We offer more opportunities for professional development now, and we have new and more dynamic ways to present data (qualitative and quantitative!) and disseminate findings. I’m not a psychic, so I’m not sure what’s coming next, but I’m excited by the passion people have for making the evaluation field more diverse, and its processes and products more directly tied to decision making and action.

GBEN:  You have travelled across the country and met many other local/state evaluation associations.  What do you think makes for a strong local evaluation association or network?

Leslie:  It’s been a real pleasure to get to meet with so many evaluators as I’ve visited local affiliates and attended their meetings. As an organization, I think we can do more to connect the national organization to its local affiliates, whether through co-sponsored events, the common brochure, the common member registration, or other ideas. I love that there was an #EvalTwitter chat with the Local Affiliate Council and that so many people participated! I’ve heard from local affiliates that they would love more opportunities to share lessons learned and strategies, and that they would appreciate more opportunities to connect more with each other. I’ve been ensuring that the ideas that have been shared with me are passed right along to AEA staff who can collect them and, when possible, implement them.

GBEN:  In addition to our bi-monthly roundtables, this blog post is our way of engaging with GBEN members.   What would you like to know from the GBEN community to that could influence your work at the national level?

Leslie:  First, let me just say thanks for the invitation to contribute to the GBEN blog. I loved getting to meet GBEN members at the social event in Cambridge, and I look forward to connecting again soon, whether at the AEA conference in Cleveland or another GBEN event.   

I’d love to know what you’re seeing in your evaluation worlds! Are funders and programs drinking the evaluation kool-aid? Are there opportunities the association, or local affiliates, could capitalize on? Are there challenges you’d like to share that you think might be more common than just to you in your work? What do new evaluators need from AEA? What about seasoned evaluators? What are you seeing with regard to trends and concerns?

GBEN:  What is your favorite part about being an evaluator as well as being a part of the local and national professional evaluation community?

Leslie:  Easy! My favorite part of being an evaluator, and being part of the local and national community of evaluators: meeting smart, dynamic, engaged, quirky, diverse, passionate, thoughtful, people who want to use their amazing skills to make this world a better place! (However you define, operationalize, and measure that. Ahem.)

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