Anzea 2014 Conference Keynote – Peter Davis

anzea logoThe 2014 ANZEA conference theme Our House, Our Whare, Our Fale: Building Strong Evaluation in Aotearoa New Zealand – had a focus on building robust evaluation in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Peter’s presentation led off the afternoon of day two of the conference (8 July).

Valuing the Social Sciences: An agenda for hard times

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Peter asked the question, are these hard times for Social Sciences. He posited that Social Sciences are under valued in NZ as evidenced by the reduction in scope and availability of funding for social science research. He also suggested the potential contribution of social science to evidence knowledge claims is not well understood.

“Social science is not well constituted within the New Zealand science system and across or within those ministries and agencies that need such information to develop policy options” (Gluckman, 2011. p. 15)

One of Peter’s key messages was the need to improve our methods – and in particular quantitative methods.

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  • “We are nearing the point where graduates lack crucial skills
  • Our disciplines are in danger of becoming one dimensional
  • Unless we take this seriously, others will gladly take the work.”

 This lack of quantitative skills is a ‘well kept secret’ in the NZ evaluation community – and Peters analysis and suggestions resonated with conference participants.

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Anzea 2014 Conference Workshop – Presenting Data Effectively

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Stephanie Evergreen Workshop

Presenting Data Effectively

Wellington NZ 10 July

Auckland NZ 11 July

Those fortunate to attend Stephanie’s workshops in New Zealand came away with highly useful, immediately applicable tools, examples and links to data visualization resources.

Using real data and hands on exercises, Stephanie stepped through a range of charts and resources to illustrate principles of data visualization that support legibility, comprehension, and retention. Stephanie helped us to get-to-grips with the importance of relationship, order and representation in data viz.

anzea keynote stephanie p8Relationship – the relationship between shape, form, interpretation and retention in the presentation of information. That is, how we process information and why some forms are both easier to understand and facilitate more accurate interpretation.

Order – data should be presented in a logical sequence, greatest to least, alphabetical or some other order that makes sense to the audience.

Representationmaking informed choices about chart types and presentation formats about how to best represent data.

We came away with practical grounded knowledge (and some tools and resources) of what chart type to use when and how to ‘best’ display information through the use of color, lines, arrangement, and text.

If you didn’t get to the workshop, you can get started by visiting:

  • Stephanie Evergreen @ stephanieevergreen.com/blog/
  • Ann K Emery @ annkemery.com/resources/
  • Chris Lysy @ freshspectrum.com
  • Color Brewer 2 for colorblind friendly color schemes

The Data Visualization Checklist is a great place to start.

 

 

 

 

 

Anzea 2014 Conference Keynote – Stephanie Evergreen

2014-07-09 Stephanie

The 2014 ANZEA conference theme – Our House, Our Whare, Our Fale: Building Strong Evaluation in Aotearoa New Zealand – had a focus on building robust evaluation in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Stephanie was the concluding keynote on day three of the conference (9 July) and her presentation provided both tools, insight and inspiration to make evaluation presentations and reports impactful, accessible and memorable.

A Data Viz Vision

Stephanie’s presentation, led by example, showcasing an aspirational data viz vision using highly engaging and relatable presentation slides and where the key message take out was simply conveyed and easily understood.

Stephanie Evergreen Keynote slide

More then just a series of pretty slides, Stephanie helped us to understand the relationship between shape, form and interpretation in the presentation of information. That is, underpinned by research, how we process information and why some formats are both easier to understand and facilitate more accurate interpretation.

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Stephanie also emphasized ‘message’ – or what I call ‘key message takeout’. That is any explanatory text should convey the main point simply, clearly and well. “Graphs don’t contain must text, so text must encapsulate the message and pack a punch”

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Not only did Stephanie provide inspiration and understanding, she also provided practical how to before and after examples – to illustrate the powerful difference of simple, thoughtful, well considered data visualization.

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anzea keynote evergreen p5One of the key take home messages from Stephanie’s presentation was achieving the balance between interpretation and design and the need for accessibility of information needs to trump flashy design!

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Anzea 2014 Conference Keynote – Karen Kirkhart

The ANZEA 2014 conference was held at the iconic Te Papa – Musuem of New Zealand – on the Wellington waterfront.

Te-Papa-Collage

The conference theme – Our House, Our Whare, Our Fale: Building Strong Evaluation in Aotearoa New Zealand – had a focus on building robust evaluation in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Unpacking the Evaluator’s Toolbox; Observations on Evaluation, Privilege, Equity and Justice

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Karen’s opening keynote on day two of the conference (8 July) explored the position of privilege that evaluation and evaluators enjoy, often unrecognized – and its potential to undermine strong evaluation that supports equity and justice.

“The house of evaluation is a house of privilege” and “when we fail to appreciate the dynamics of privilege/power surrounding and infusing our evaluation practice, it undercuts evaluation’s ability to advance social justice… While evaluation is on the rise, social betterment has not necessarily followed…”

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Using the metaphor of a toolbox Karen argued that privilege is “not only something packed into the evaluator’s toolbox but also the structure of the box itself.”

2014-07-09 panel karen2Karen stepped through the need to recognize, unpack and interrogate privilege in pursuit of strong evaluation

  • Recognize privilege be aware of the privilege that comes with the enterprise and one’s role within it
  • Unpack privilege – calling into question invisible/unexamined assumptions rooted in our professional training, our individual characteristics and our personal and collective lived experiences
  • Interrogate privilege – examine invisible assumptions anchored in unrecognized ways in dominant culture

Anzea 2014 Conference Keynote – Nan Wehipeihana

anzea logoThe 2014 Aotearoa New Zealand Evaluation Association (ANZEA) conference theme – Our House, Our Whare, Our Fale: Building Strong Evaluation in Aotearoa New Zealand – had a focus on building robust evaluation in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Implications for Evaluation in Aotearoa New Zealand in the Post Treaty Settlement Era.

nan keynote slide1Nan was the opening keynote on the first day of the conference (7 July 2014) and spoke about the challenges and opportunities of building evaluation capacity and capability to respond to the emerging needs of Iwi (tribal groups) for evaluation. She  highlighted the substantial growth in the economic asset base of Iwi (tribes) as a result of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process and the significant (and growing) Māori contribution to the NZ economy.

Nan keynote slide2“Iwi as managers and stewards of tribal financial assets have a range of responsibilities and accountabilities. To invest wisely and to make ‘good’ decisions which respond to the social, cultural, economic and environmental aspirations of Iwi. It is these decisions and accountability back to the people from which the need for evaluation arises.”

The implications for evaluators Include the need to grow our understanding in an Iwi context of:

  • what ‘good’ evaluation looks like
  • what counts as evidence
  • what’s valued and important to Iwi

Nan Keynote Anzea2Nan put forward a range of paradigm shifts (e.g. from evaluator as expert to Iwi as expert); revisiting the nature of power sharing and control of evaluation; and korero tuku iho (stories handed down) to respond the challenges and opportunities presented by the changing nature and scope of evaluation within Aotearoa New Zealand.

 

AEA 2013 | a precursor to AEA 2014.

Better late then never.

I drafted this post in November 2013 but never got around to posting it. Just last week I started thinking about what I would attend at AEA Denver 2014 with my Kinnect colleagues – so will use this as a precursor to this year’s AEA conference.

jellybean3Spoiled for choice like a kid in a candy store!  With over 800 sessions at this years conference the toughest job is always selecting what to go to – and sadly what sessions you won’t be able to attend. With only a small NZ contingent attending this year, there was less opportunity to confer on presentation selection and allocate between us. With some time slots having up 49 concurrent session its not surprising, that on two occasions I had eight presentations that I wanted to go to in the same time slot.  Normally however the choice was one of two or three.

My approach to picking sessions to attend

  1. I generally select from within two or three TIGS (Topical Interest Groups) in my case this year the Systems, Data Visualization and Indigenous TIG. (For those not familiar with AEA conferences the TIGs are responsible for reviewing conference abstracts and selecting conference presentations.)
  2. Pick sessions related to areas of interest (e.g. Complexity, Sustainability, Developmental evaluation, data visualisation etc
  3. Select from presenters/speakers of interest. This also includes looking at sessions they are discussant for or chairing.
  4. Then there is the off the radar sessions or people /presentatiions that friends bring to your notice and make session selection ever more complicated.
  5. Prioritise and then see/encourage friends and colleagues to attend other sessions on your conference list – where you can at least get firsthand feedback if you can’t attend.

None of this is an exact science but over the years I’ve found it valuable to attend a suite of somewhat related presentations looking for a range of perspectives and increased depth in a few areas of interest. The smorgasbord approach with a little bit of this and a little bit of that, I find too once over lightly for my needs; but for those new to evaluation this ‘taster’ approach to evaluation and the conference

Indigenous Pathways into Social Research Voices of a New Generat.pdfMemorable moments. One of the many memorable sessions that I attended, was the presentation by James Johnston III, Indigenous Evaluation in Alaska: Making Our Way Upstream and Ricardo Millett, Lens From the Bottom of the Well (AEA13 Session 449). They shared in a deeply personal ways their histories and how these experiences shape the lens through which they see the world, and how this lens influences their approach to evaluation. Whilst I had read their personal histories and pathways to evaluation in the Indigenous Pathways book to which we had all contributed chapters, there is no substitute for powerfully

The one that got away. As always there will be a not-to-miss session that you missed. For me this year it was AEA13 session 756 by Nora Murphy Title: Organizational Collaboration and Learning in a Complex Adaptive System: A Principles-Based Developmental Evaluation of the Otto Bremer Foundation’s Youth Homelessness Initiative. It was on my radar because it touched a number of areas of interest within the one presentation particularly in the systems field; complex adaptive systems, developmental evaluation, principles based etc – and importantly because of the recommendation of colleagues I respected as knowing my areas of interest and the presenter.  And from all accounts it was excellent on a number of dimensions including content exploration of ideas and presenter connection with audience.  I now have to live vicariously through the recollections of others and the presentation in the AEA library.

kataraina-pipiThe value of a not for me session. Despite the 800 plus sessions, it is still possible to have a gap in your personal conference schedule, or at least nothing that is a must see priority session. If so, then you just might find time, as I did, to attend a session  for a friend and colleague Kataraina Pip (but still of interest to me). AEA13 Session 83 a Think Tank titled Facilitation: An Essential Ingredient in Evaluation Practice. The session bought together a group of evaluators and facilitators collaborating on a publication. When you have a group of highly skilled facilitators running a session, the expectations are that it will be highly engaging, collaborative, surfacing valuable insights and fun – and it was all of these. It generated rich conversations and reflections among participants about the role of facilitation in evaluation and of evaluation in facilitation. Roll on the publication.

2103 10 16 Rita AlissaThe session was facilitated by Dawn Smart, Rita Fierro and Alissa Schwartz. During the conference I would find time to meet with (and sing with) Rita and Alissa and talk more about evaluation; and to re-centre what had been an in-passing, on-the-run acquaintance to an embryonic relationship; exploring collaboration opportunities and plan for a visit to  Aotearoa New Zealand. Yeah!

Conference Stamina.  AEA like any conference is teeming with opportunities to mix and mingle, and be exposed to new ideas and people.  Of course it can be a very tiring schedule with breakfast or TIG meetings at 7am in the morning; sessions finishing at 6pm followed by a TIG event or catching up over a beer or a glass of wine before heading out to dinner.  So dinner finishes about 10.30 ish and maybe getting back to the hotel around 11 or 11.30am.  And then back at the hotel your greeted by an avalanche of emails, because at home its the end of the working day and they are ignoring your out of office notice.

Looking forward to the CREA conference in Chicago September 14-18

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And then roll on AEA 2014.

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AEA 2013 | Was it worth it?

AEA 13 capitol white houseEvaluation 2013: The State of Evaluation Practice in the Early 21st Century 

When you decide to travel 20 plus hours to attend the 27th annual conference of the American Evaluation Association, this year in Washington DC, there has to be some ‘expected’ value that makes the travel, the time away from family, the build up of work and the cost worthwhile.

So what are my criteria to be able to say “yes, it was worth it”.  For me its a mix of reconnecting with friends and colleagues, the opportunity to learn from others both theory and practice as well as things that I can apply immediately when I get home.  I also like to get a sense of what’s trending in evaluation, what’s on the rise and what’s emerging. Then there’s the opportunity to share what I’m doing and to build new relationships with evaluators I’ve yet to meet.

Catching up with friends and colleagues.  Did really well here. Racked and stacked dinners, breakfasts, birthday drinks and conviviality (post conference party). TIG events and meetings, the Silent Auction and Poster session also provide opportunities to connect with new ideas and make new friends.

Learn from others – theory and practice. It would be hard to attend a conference of the breadth, scope and size of AEA and for learning not to occur. So it’s about maximising and taking advantage of the abundance of opportunities that there are in the short timeframe of the conference. So I came away with lots to think about particularly in terms of sustainability, evidence based principles and facilitation; and I also came away with lots of practical tips about apps and software, advice on hardware options (e.g. data collection kiosks) and ways of working with graphic designers and web programmers to enhance the accessibility and usefulness of evaluation findings and learning.

What’s trending? In some sense what’s trending is what you focus your gaze on and attend to; what you go looking for to confirm your own sense of what’s on the rise. – as well as what assumes prominence because of the number of presentations, the number of speakers and because it’s what’s on everyone’s lips. I looked for and therefore I found sustainability (organisational and programme) as well as environmental sustainability; greater exploration of both the application and ethics of datavizualisation and the application of evidence based principles (distinct from evidence base practice). As an early adopter of Developmental evaluation it was great to see nearly 40 conference presentations featuring developmental evaluation.

Meet new people, begin to build new relationships. Presenting on the Saturday is tough. Many people have had to leave, interest and energy levels are waning and very small numbers attending a session is not uncommon.  On the other hand these are also the sessions where you can really engage with the presenters.  This was my experience for  Saturday morning 8:00am to 9:30am session.  There was a total of 4 people; two presenters and two in the audience.  So rather then present in a room set up for 30-40 people, we took ourselves downstairs and over coffee, got to know one another, our work and to discuss the presentation in a more personal and intimate setting. We’ve agreed to share work and stay in touch with one another. So whilst I think the presenters may have been initially disappointed with the turn out – although never entirely unexpected when you draw a first up slot on Saturday – and given the time and effort putting together a presentation, I like to believe they got something out of the session. I know that I did and look forward to staying connected over the next 12 months and reconnecting in Denver at AEA14.

As a board member of the Aotearoa New Zealand Evaluation Association (ANZEA) I also took the opportunity to meet with two keynote speakers for the Anzea 2014 conference, provide some background to Aotearoa New Zealand and to discuss how the association could manaaki (host and care for) them while in NZ. I knew of, but did not know them personally, so whilst I was extending a welcome on behalf of the Anzea board and conference committee it was the start of new relationships which I hope will flourish over time.

Was it worth it ? Is almost a rhetorical question – but still worth answering.  In one sense the judgement about worth was made at the time I scheduled the conference days into my diary some 11 months previous; affirmed when I confirmed the  accommodation arrangements when the AEA conference options came online; and reaffirmed when I booked and paid for my tickets, and the not inexpensive upgrade from economy to business for the 13 hour Auckland – San Francisco leg of my flight. So I’d already decided it was worth it.

However worth is also closely associated with value. What was the value to me of attending the conference; and was the value derived sufficient (a little… a lot). The value was in connecting and reconnecting with old and new friends and colleagues; affirming of my, our, Maori, New Zealand, Indigenous evaluation approaches and practice; and exposure to and exploring of old and new ideas and concepts; mixed with good wine, good food (some)  and great – fun, inspiring, insightful and challenging – company.

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Was it worth it. You betcha! See you in Denver; roll on AEA14.