Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pension payable but never yet claimed

Call for nominations for the AEA Board of Directors arrived this morning.
It says, in particular, that the "proposed candidates must agree to be fully available for Board work during their term. More specifically, each candidate will be asked to sign a letter of agreement stipulating his/her:
  • Availability and willingness to attend three Board meetings each year of the three-year term,
  • Availability and accessibility by phone for periodic Board conference calls during the three-year term,
  • Understanding that he/she is not eligible to receive an AEA-sponsored award during the three-year term,
  • Agreement to abide by AEA Governance Policies related to responsibilities of the Board member".
This is a great opportunity and honor to serve on the AEA Board and I deeply appreciate AEA Board members for contributing their time and effort to run this outstanding association. Their commitment goes far beyond the above mentioned points. I used to be actively involved with 4 professional associations' governing bodies and can witness that it is exciting but often overwhelming, which reminded me of Parkinson's approach to inviting candidates. He suggests that advantages and drawbacks should be balanced so that the only one ideal candidate will show up:

"Wanted — An archaeologist with high academic qualifications willing to spend fifteen years in excavating the Inca tombs at Helsdump on the Alligator River. Knighthood or equivalent honor guaranteed. Pension payable but never yet claimed. Salary of £2000 (or $6000 U.S.) per year. Apply in triplicate to the Director of the Grubbenburrow Institute, Sickdale, Ill., U.S.A".

Here the advantages and drawbacks are neatly balanced. There is no need to insist that candidates must be patient, tough, intrepid, and single."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Conference in Moscow

The first annual conference of the Russian Association of Specialists in Program and Policy Evaluation (RASPPE) will take place on October 29-31, 2015 in Moscow at MIRBIS (Moscow International Higher Business School).  The conference theme is “Program and policy evaluation in Russia: becoming a profession”. The conference goal is to put together a comprehensive picture of how program and policy evaluation develops in various areas. The presenters are invited to discuss a broad range of topics related to evaluation including evaluation methodology, evaluation research, evaluation standards, evaluation practice etc. The conference organizers plan to have pre-conference professional development workshops on October 29th. Deadline for presentation proposal submissions is April 30, 2015. Registration of conference participants will be open on May 29, 2015 after the workshops and conference programs are published. Conference working language is Russian. Conference website is at

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

IPEN'2014 Conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

International Program Evaluation Network 14th annual conference took place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan this year. The conference went very well. Deputy Speaker of the National Parliament made a presentation at the opening plenary. Several deputies of the parliament, representatives of a number of ministries, specialists from the Presidential Administration attended the conference, made presentations and took part in the discussions. The conference was well attended - we had about 140 participants registered - mostly from Kyrgyzstan and the neighboring Kazakhstan. About 10 participants came from Russia, quite a few people - from Ukraine. There were participants from Tajikistan, Moldova and Georgia. We even had a guest from Israel - Barbara Rosenstein came to talk about the national evaluation polcies study she recently completed. The 4 pre-conference workshops were conducted by specialists from the South Africa, England and Russia (including myself). 50 presentations were selected by the conference committee. The quality of presentations was very good. The conference web page is available in English. You may look at the conference program as well as at the program of the pre-conference workshops

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

IPEN annual conference opening tomorrow in Bishkek

International Program Evaluation Network (IPEN) is a regional VOPE (volunteer organization of professional evaluators) founded in 2000. Since then IPEN had annual conferences in Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan (2 times), Moldova, Russia (4) and Ukraine (2). This year IPEN conference takes place in Kyrgyzstan for the first time. The four pre-conference workshops took place today and were well attended (overall about 80 participants). The workshops were conducted by specialists from the South Africa, UK and Russia. My workshop was on the use of theory of change in program planning and evaluation. About 140 participants are expected tomorrow and the day after tomorrow at the conference. The conference and pre-conference workshops programs are available at the conference website in Russian and  in English.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The drama of rejection

Yes, another post on the rejected proposals - still thinking about it and reflecting on what Tom Grayson wrote in his comment to the previous post. Relax, this is not going to be too personal :)
It occurred to me that there might be more people sharing their thoughts and feelings on the rejected conference presentations. I found out right away that sometimes the rejection of their presentation proposal makes people pretty angry and upset. In some cases such situation is even painful and traumatic. I could easily picture those two elderly professionals whose proposal was rejected: "Here we were, two HR Pros, I mean really two friends living a dream, wanting to go unpaid and share our wisdom, share our souls, with our brothers and sisters."
Interestingly, some people shared thoughts and experiences that were similar to mine: "I also had to remember this won’t be the only time where I can speak about my work in a professional setting. Case in point: I had a manuscript submission approved the same week I got rejected for the presentation above…funny how that worked out."
There are some good jokes such as: "If all the sales assistants at the shoe stores felt rejected they would spend most of their time crying, feeling sad, unwanted and rejected and never make another sale!" And some positive recommendations: "Believe in yourself and others will believe in you."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When presentation proposals are rejected: some lessons learned

“We appreciate the hard work that goes into preparing a submission and regret that we are unable to place your proposal in this year’s program”. This is a message one receives in the case when his/her AEA presentation proposal is rejected.
I joined AEA in 1999 and submitted my first presentation proposal in 2000. Since then I attended all the AEA conferences except one and submitted proposals 12 times. I used to co-chair the ICCE TIG and know how the proposal review process works. 4 times my proposals were rejected (including the last two years – 2013 and 2014) - enough to discuss some lessons learned.

Let me just mention that I have been actively practicing evaluation since 1996 – nationally and internationally, received my PhD in evaluation in the US, published quite a few articles in English and in Russian, edited a book in Russian, conducted dozens of evaluation workshops in different countries and made numerous presentations at various conferences (national and international). Hence, I am a professional evaluator and a committed AEA member, but not just a stranger who happens to visit the AEA events occasionally.

Now I will discuss the rejected proposals.

  • The first one – long time ago – included stuff that was important for us here in Russia and the Newly Independent States but probably was not really ‘hot’ for the AEA conference. It was rejected for a good reason. 
  • The second proposal that was rejected included the results of my PhD study and some reflections on my evaluation practice. The paper I was going to present was published later as a book chapter, and I presented it at the AEA conference in a slightly different format next year. 
  • The third rejected proposal (2013) was developed in line with the AEA president’s message who invited us to use our evaluation skills to reflect upon our evaluation practice. It was based on the 25 years of my consulting experience in an extremely dynamic, diverse and complex environment and included some lessons learned and recommendations. I thought that it was interesting, but it did not fly. Working on it was fun though! 
  • This year I was going to talk about evaluator competencies in the national context. My presentation proposal was based on the article published in the Canadian Journal of Evaluation this year. I was going to use the concepts described in that article and further develop them in the presentation. AEA was unable to place my proposal in this year’s program, but I will discuss the proposed topic at our regional and national conferences this fall. 

Lessons learned:

  • Working on a presentation proposal when taken seriously is a useful process per se, and results in some product that might be used in various ways – not only at the AEA conference. 
  • When the presentation proposal is rejected, it does not necessarily mean that it turned out to be a complete garbage. It may work next time or in a different setting. 

The major reasons for attending the AEA conferences for me are learning and networking. If there is a chance to share some ideas in a form of presentation, it’s an additional benefit. But I would never miss a conference due to the fact that my proposal is rejected. The tickets and hotel are booked. Look forward to attending another outstanding AEA conference and meeting friends and colleagues in Denver!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What is the difference between evaluation and... ?

It turns out that there are several terms people are most frequently asking this question about:
  • analysis  
  • assessment
  • conclusion
  • examination
  • measurement
  • monitoring
  • performance measurement
  • research
You may be interested to learn about the # of results of Google search for each of the above mentioned terms. I looked for exact phrases like "difference between evaluation and research" and inserted quotes in the search string to do so. Here is my 'theory': the more often people get confused about the difference between evaluation and other things, the more often they clarify this issue on the web, and the more Google search results we get. Try to guess before you open the Diagram 1 (under the cut)...