by Jade Maloney
Over the last couple of months, evaluators around the world have been grappling with the question of whether and how we evaluate in the COVID-19 context. What can and should be done now, and what should wait? How can we be most useful?
For a recent online session with AES members, which Keren Winterford, Greg Masters and I hosted on behalf of the NSW Committee, I rounded up a range of reflections on these questions to prompt discussion.
by Keren Winterford
Applying ethical principles in evaluation is about making fair and just choices relevant to the context, culture of participants and evaluation purpose. In fact, whenever we speak to a person – a participant or stakeholder - as part of an evaluation, we need to think about ethics.
Why? Because this type of thinking ensures that our practice, at a bare minimum, is risk management, and adheres to the fundamental principle of ‘do no harm.’ It also shapes your relationships with participants and stakeholders as one of trust, mutual responsibility and ethical equality.
It is only through such practice that evaluation provides an important contribution to effective policy and change.
by Sarah Oxford
The Australian Evaluation Society recently held FestEVAL21, a week of online activities to celebrate evaluation. This year’s event included more than 1,100 registrants with attendance of about 3,000 people across 23 sessions. The engaging session topics ranged from themes addressing practical application such as capability and capacity building in evaluation to encouraging evaluator reflection and behaviour change. FestEVAL gave us ample opportunities to begin this work by platforming experts with diverse life experiences in evaluation.
The topics that caught my interest were the ones that made me look inwards and ask, what can I do to lead evaluations with inclusive and anti-racist practices? As evaluators a lot of our work involves exploring human behaviour change. But what happens when our behaviour and the systems that we work in and through need to change? How can we improve ourselves, our evaluation practices and the systems at large?
by Danielle Campbell, Marlkirdi Rose Napaljarri and Linda Kelly
Indigenous people in Australia and internationally are increasingly calling for monitoring and evaluation that supports self-determination, decolonisation and better outcomes for their communities.
In this blog, we share some of what we have learned together – as Indigenous and non-Indigenous community development advocates and evaluators – from our work in the Tanami Desert in Central Australia. We hope that by sharing some of our key lessons, from 10 years of trials, successes and failures, we can contribute to the discussion about whether and how genuinely co-created Indigenous evaluation can be done in Australia.
by Charlie Tulloch
As we move into 2021 after an interrupted 2020, it is a good time to reflect on the place of evaluators in the working world. It is clear that many sectors and vocations have been forced to significantly upscale, downscale or adapt to changing economic and global circumstances.
Fortunately for us, there remains a central role for evaluation to play in the face of increasing challenges, demanding an ongoing need for analysis of policy and program successes and failures. Indeed, evaluators now face an increasingly diverse set of choices when it comes to defining their career directions.
The final Australian Evaluation Society's Victorian seminar of 2020 explored this topic in depth, drawing on the wisdom and experiences of six fantastic evaluators of different ages, genders, study backgrounds and vocational sectors (academia, private, government, international development, philanthropy). This article reflects on the insights from this session.
by Ian Patrick, Wei Leng Kwok and Farida Fleming, Co-Chairs, Awards and Recognition Working Group
The AES Awards for Excellence in Evaluation have a long history of recognising and promoting outstanding contributions to the theory, practice and use of evaluation. The awards acknowledge and showcase excellence in terms of professionalism, ethical conduct and the actual evaluation work conducted. They are important in terms of highlighting quality standards and cutting-edge practice. Details of previous award recipients can be found here.
In 2021, the AES will introduce exciting changes to the awards including new award categories, and an increased emphasis on learning. The AES Awards and Recognition Working Group (ARWG) which has responsibility for the AES Awards on behalf of the AES Board has recently completed a review of the awards program. The review was timely and enabled assessment of whether the awards were still fit for purpose and how they aligned with the AES strategic focus. The year of 2020 also allowed space for the review, as during this year the awards were postponed due to the COVID-19 situation. The review involved assessment of recent award performance, examination of the practice of peer evaluation associations, and interviews with key stakeholders.
by Anthea Rutter
Over the past two years I have written a monthly blog on our AES Fellows, including Jenny Neale who we sadly lost in 2019.
Looking at the demographics we are a good mix of men and women (with nine male and 11 female Fellows) and cover most states in Australia. However, there are still some gaps in our representation – with no current Fellows from Queensland and the Northern Territory and no Indigenous Fellows.
The process of becoming a Fellow in the AES is very thorough. Apart from needing to be nominated by two people, prospective Fellows have to demonstrate knowledge and experience in a number of areas, including practical evaluation, teaching as well as holding office in the AES. For myself, I regard being a Fellow as an honour as well as a responsibility.
As a group the Fellows, have amassed an abundance of skills and expertise. I felt it was a real privilege to interview them to understand their hopes and their disappointments, as well as their career highlights. This final piece on our Fellows sums up their insights and my own. As professionals in their field, they have honed their craft and have given back to their profession in spades
by AES QLD Committee Members
Evaluators in the AES network are increasingly being challenged to apply evaluative thinking, methods and tools to innovative, emergent, place-based or otherwise complex initiatives. These initiatives often seek to achieve improvements not only in individuals and institutions, but in the systems that hold 'wicked' societal problems in place. The desired systems-level outcomes are often difficult to define, predict and measure and can change and evolve as the implementing organisations learn which strategies are most effective in reaching their goal.
In response, a recent issue of the AES QLD regional committee's newsletter focussed on resources, methods and mindsets to support members to in evaluating complex systems change initiatives. Here are the take-outs.
by Anthea Rutter
Alan has worked in evaluation for a number of years. He works in mental health and suicide prevention as a policy adviser, program developer and researcher/evaluator. He has held senior executive positions at Lifeline Australia, including the establishment of the Lifeline Research Foundation. He is a part-time Commissioner with the National Mental Health Commission.
by Alison Rogers
Once upon a time there was a diverse range of animals working hard to run a productive farm. Among the committed and dedicated team there were five dogs. In addition to retrieving, herding, and sniffing for wild produce, their role was to guard the premises. The dogs were friendly to the milkmaid and grocer, but for some reason, they growled and barked at the postal worker.
One day, when the postal worker was due to deliver mail, four of the dogs were distracted by a commotion on the other side of the farm. No one was watching the mailbox except for the dog known as Champ. He stayed by the gate, as he was meant to do. He observed the postal worker walk closer, and when she made no attempt to enter the premises, he stayed quietly vigilant and let her get on with her job. Champ even started wagging his tail.
by Jade Maloney and Lia Oliver
This has been a challenging year, with Covid-19 impacting our home, social and working lives. In a recent survey run by the AES, three-quarters of respondents said their work has been impacted at least moderately – by changing scope and timelines and, in some cases, cancelled contracts. And that’s before we get to the impact Covid-19 has had on our connections and wellbeing.
The Australian Evaluation Society’s (AES) FestEVAL provided opportunity to take time out, celebrate evaluation and connect. It began with four provocations for evaluation in our times, designed to seed conversations that would continue throughout the week.