Greetings from Calgary! I’m in town for this year’s edition of the Canadian Evaluation Society (CES) conference. While I’m excited as always to be participating, during my trip preparations I realized that my last post online was from last year’s conference! Though the site may have been quiet these past twelve months, Strong Roots Consulting has been anything but, filled with both interesting client projects and some initiatives to develop our own capacity. On that second topic, here’s a quick run-down on where we’ve been and where we plan to go.
Learning and Sharing Events
If this past year had a theme, it would have been “Learn and Share”. In addition to last year’s CES conference in Vancouver, I presented at the biennial conference of the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) and attended learning events hosted by Tamarack Institute on Cities of the Future, Evaluating Community Impact, and Asset-Based Community Development. While all of those events were great, the most personally-meaningful workshop I attended was right at home on the topic of Decolonizing Evaluation. Led by Kim van der Woerd and Billie Joe Rogers from Reciprocal Consulting and featuring a case study of Reconciliation Saskatoon, the two days featured thought-provoking content and great discussions on how evaluations can be designed to be culturally-responsive rather than perpetuating inequitable and harmful relationships.
For some time I’ve had the idea of hosting introductory evaluation workshops in Saskatoon. Thanks tofellow consultant Micheal Heimlick of Two Bridges Consulting, the Saskatchewan chapter of CES, and the Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership, this dream was realized when we hosted a free half-day “Eval 101” session at Station 20 West in Saskatoon. Based on the positive feedback and requests received since then for a repeat event, I hope to continue offering these workshops in the future!
Although the blog was quiet, I have definitely been active online! As usual, my Twitter account lit up during the learning events I attended – expect the same during the next few days at CES. The website also saw a bit of a refresh, taking down some old pages and streamlining and updating existing content.
What I’m most excited about in this area is Eval Cafe, a podcast that I co-host with Carolyn Camman. At its heart, the podcast is two evaluators having a casual chat on different topics. So far we’ve covered “serious” topics like participatory approaches and evaluation ethics, along with more whimsical affairs such as boldly going where evaluation and Star Trek intersect (thanks to Kylie Hutchison for joining us for that one!). Carolyn and I will be recording an episode at CES this year, and we both look forward to sharing our discussions in the months to come.
Now that I have the mic and some experience recording, I’ve been thinking about a solo podcast project to go alongside Eval Cafe – stay tuned on that!
One of the biggest developments for the business this year has been hiring an associate. I’ve always enjoyed working with others who have a similar passion for supporting community initiatives and organizations, but up until now it’s always been on a partnership or subcontracting basis for specific projects. Earlier this month, Strong Roots Consulting welcomed Lindsay Herman as a term associate for the summer. Lindsay recently finished her Masters degree in Urban Planning at the University of Saskatchewan and brings a strong focus on community to her work. In addition to working on client projects, our hope is that we can both contribute to the Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership’s efforts in creating and evaluating a municipal poverty strategy.
A few months ago, I started the application process for the Credentialed Evaluator (CE) designation through CES. The program serves to recognize education and skills related to specific evaluator competencies and promote ongoing professional development. While I didn’t quite meet my aim of submitting the full application before the conference, my hope is to get it in within the next few weeks.
Finally, the business is coming up to its sixth anniversary and we’re using the anniversary to take stock of where we’ve been and how we can continue supporting non-profit organizations and community change initiatives. Oh, and last but not least, I’ll be testing a new approach to the blog to ensure more regular content and fewer months- (or year-) long gaps between posts. More news to come as these pieces come together: keep your eye on the blog here for the latest!
That’s it for now. If you’re at CES this year, come find me and say hi!