Fellow WE Members --
It is my great honor to kick off an exciting year for the field of evaluation here in Washington, DC! We expect discussions about evidence-building in the DC-area will continue to see an intense focus in 2017, highlighting evaluation's critical role in supporting and informing decisions in government, non-profit organizations, and the private sector. I'm excited for Washington Evaluators (WE) to play a crucial role that increasingly supports our community and profession.
Let me begin by thanking the all-volunteer 2017 Board for Washington Evaluators for their service, and their willingness to help strengthen the field of evaluation here in DC. I'd also like to thank last year's WE President, David Bernstein, for his leadership and dedication to our community, and will look forward to his continued participation on the Board as Past-President.
As our attention turns from the many accomplishments of 2016 to the possibilities in 2017 for learning with and from evaluation, I want to take this opportunity to highlight my priorities over the next year as WE's 2017 President:
1. Support Initiatives Strengthening the National Evaluation Community. As many of you know, in addition to the American Evaluation Association's (AEA) annual conference returning to DC this fall, former WE President Kathy Newcomer recently became President of AEA. Given WE's history of working closely with AEA, WE will be heavily involved in many of AEA's activities this year. First, later this month, WE will be co-sponsoring a Dialogue on Race and Class that I hope many of you will join. Second, in partnership with AEA's Evaluation Policy Task Force, WE is co-sponsoring an initiative for evaluators to visit Members of Congress and their staff this fall to discuss the importance of evaluation practice (details here).
Then, of course, this November AEA's annual evaluation conference returns to DC (#Eval17). As part of WE's support, we will be reinforcing the 2017 conference theme "From Learning to Action" through our events for the entire year. Finally, over the spring and fall, WE members Giovanni Dazzo and Jonathan Jones will be coordinating the Local Arrangements Working Group to help facilitate the DC-hosting of the fall conference.
2. Enhance Evaluation Services and Benefits for our DC-based Members. Your WE membership entitles you to participate in our many professional development activities and evaluation networking events. This year WE will be expanding the benefits available as part of your membership, and also working to increase the opportunities to meaningfully engage with your fellow evaluators.
First, we're aiming to provide more professional development events this year and are exploring opportunities to increasingly allow for remote participation for our members. Our first professional development event of the year will pilot allowing members to join by phone! Second, over the next month WE will be launching a new mentoring program designed over the past year -- stay tuned for details.
Third, building on Lee Cronbach's suggestion that the sine qua non for improving the evaluation enterprise was building a stronger evaluation profession, WE will be doing more to connect evaluators to colleagues in their own neighborhoods in 2017. As part of this effort, later this month I will be hosting evaluators who live on Capitol Hill in my home for what I hope to be the first in a longer series of Sine Quo Non Dinners. Fourth, new professionals and students are the future of the evaluation community. For this reason, this month I am creating a special task force to develop a strategy for better serving this part of our community. Finally, as a service to the entire evaluation community in DC, I am also creating special committee to develop a new scholarship program to contribute to supporting the growth of evaluation in our region. The special committee will be charged with designing a program to award scholarships that can support individuals in the DC-area participating in our local and national community of evaluation practitioners.
3. Reinforce our Infrastructure for WE's Sustainability. As WE grew over the last decade, new opportunities and ideas have been constantly presented to the Board as a way to expand WE's reach. To ensure these new opportunities align with the broader strategic vision for our organization, this winter the WE Board will develop a strategic plan to help guide our future initiatives and planning. But even in the absence of that plan, there is much work to be done to strengthen our infrastructure and to continue expanding our community.
In this vein, several targeted efforts are already underway. First, in 2017, WE is making some monthly Board meetings more accessible by piloting virtual meetings in several months. Second, renewing memberships can sometimes come at inconvenient times since we're all busy. For our professional members, WE just launched a two year renewal option to help reduce the burden of processing memberships every year. The choice of a one year or two year renewal is up to each individual member, but the two year option ensures you will stay informed and be eligible for other benefits without interruption. We will continue exploring other opportunities to minimize the administrative burden in the future as well.
Third, we know that many WE members work for small organizations and can benefit from having multiple members as part of our evaluation community. So WE just launched new organization sponsorships that encourage joint memberships with colleagues in your own workplace. WE will feature these organizations on our website as WE sponsors and hope to find opportunities to partner with these organizations on events in the future.
As you can see, 2017 will be an exciting year for evaluation in DC, and we have much work to do. I hope that each of you will commit to attending events, networking with fellow evaluators, and volunteering to support our evidence-building community. I hope to see you soon and look forward to a very exciting year focused on learning in our evaluation field and supporting our society's need for continuous evidence-building.
Nick Hart, Ph.D.