I find it interesting that the two major evaluation conferences I attend are usually scheduled in spring and fall (respectively), the seasons of change. At its heart, the field is about change: both in terms of understanding and cataloguing what has transpired as the result of an intervention or program, but also supporting new developments by providing feedback and ideas for further improvements and refinement. There’s one more reason why change is central to evaluation, though – our work is not immune to it either. We have to be aware that our contexts and those we partner with also face change regularly, requiring us evaluators to identify and understand what’s happening around us and respond in kind.
The two sessions I’m presenting at the upcoming Canadian Evaluation Society (CES) conference in Vancouver both touch on this idea of being aware of and responsive to our contexts. Kirstie Gibson, a former placement student with Strong Roots Consulting, and I will be presenting on research that we conducted with local non-profits that examined their perspectives on evaluation. My other session, with Craig Moore of South Shore Evaluation in Nova Scotia, is a thematic breakfast roundtable that invites other consultants from smaller cities and regions in Canada (loosely defined) to chat about the benefits and challenges related to being “the only one in town” when it comes to evaluation consulting. Two pretty different topics, but I think there’s a common thread around the importance of communication and collaboration to successfully navigate situations that are much more complex than the safe examples we practice with in workshops or classroom settings.
With CES approaching in less than two weeks, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to connect with colleagues from across Canada and even other continents (I’m attending a workshop that includes presenters from New Zealand!). More importantly, these events always provide an opportunity to expand my thinking, identify new approaches and methods that I can incorporate into my practice, and most importantly, remind me that when change happens, there’s a community there to help me make sense of it. For my friends and colleagues who will be in attendance, I’ll see you soon in Vancouver! Everyone else, keep an eye on this blog and the Strong Roots Twitter account the week of April 30 as I share insights and ideas from the conference.