The American Evaluation Association 31st Annual Conference was recently held in Washington D.C. from November 8th – 11th. Four of our project managers, along with one of our graduate assistants presented throughout the week. We’ve asked each of them to share some of their favorite things about Eval17.
Today, Libby Smith, our eval and research development manager, shares her thoughts:
Best Person You Met: Andrea Anderson! I met Andrea in Baltimore a couple months back at the Annie E. Casey LEEAD Symposium, but AEA gave me a chance to get to know her a bit more. I’m so inspired by her passion for evaluation and learning. She gave me my best tip of the conference! As a long-time attendee of AEA, she said this year she was only choosing sessions she knew nothing about, so she would be more likely to learn something completely new. This was great advice and led to some great learning opportunities personally.
Best Session Attended: I ran into Dr. Debra Joy Perez in the hallway on the last evening of the conference. As we said a quick hello, she said she was off to present with several other people from philanthropic foundations in a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Evaluation Innovation entitled Overcoming Barriers to Building a Dynamic Evaluation-Informed Learning Culture in Philanthropy. I followed her to that session instead of going to the one I planned and I’m so glad I did. I’ve worked primarily with federally grant-funded program evaluations, so it was so good to hear the perspectives of the evaluation and learning officers from some of our country’s largest foundations, including the Gates Foundation and the Kellogg Foundation. I learned that even they struggle to ensure they are truly learning from their research and evaluation programs. No amount of money can replace having well designed systems and consistently reviewing them for integrity.
Best Moment: I know this moment truly makes me an #evalnerd, but getting to know your evaluation heroes as real people is the best! I will never forget dancing with Donna Mertens at the Diversity & Inclusion TIG Networking Social. Her work has inspired me since the beginning of my evaluation career and her dancing inspires me too!! Never, ever, take yourself too seriously.