On the Power of Program Evaluation

New competencies for program evaluators

I’m interrupting our regularly scheduled blog post on helping youth develop a hopeful purpose for a live update from a (very) rainy Cleveland Ohio, where over 3,000 program evaluators have gathered for the 2018 national conference of the American Evaluation Association. The conference theme is Speaking Truth to Power, and in a captivating plenary session yesterday the AEA president talked about the illuminating role of good evaluation in establishing credible evidence for program results, something that is especially important in the post-factual world that has descended upon us.

I am a long time member of AEA and have attended this conference almost annually for 20 years. The conference has been instrumental in my training as an evaluator, as I have slowly developed my own evaluation capabilities over time. Each year I learn so much about the practice of program evaluation, about the nuances of establishing credible evidence, and about the importance of bringing the voices of justice and equity to evaluation designs, because the decisions made on evaluation results must reflect a truth for all, not just a few.

As I walked to my chair in the big event hall for the plenary I found two newly-developed papers waiting there. The first was the updated guiding principles for evaluators, and the second a newly-developed set of competencies for professional evaluators. Both reflect the impactful role that evaluators can have, and the care that we must take to do our work with skill, care, and integrity.

So why am I writing about this on the Thriving Blog you ask? Because improving our ability to measure the impact of 4-H, the process through which it happens, and the outcomes we can accurately claim was the reason I started the development of the 4-H Thriving Model in the first place.

This afternoon my colleague Ryan Gagnon from Clemson University, who conducted all the analysis on the thriving studies, and I will be presenting the newly-developed 4-H Thriving Model evaluation instruments at a session for youth-focused program evaluators. These instruments are ready to go, and starting next week we will begin to use them to establish evidence to tell the story of the impact 4-H has. It feels very rewarding to have come this far, and on the verge of taking the next step in putting the 4-H Thriving Model into practice.

Thriving on,

Mary Arnold

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