Evaluators meet to unleash the power of evaluation

[September 2014] 

A group of nearly 300 enthusiastic evaluators attended the International Evaluation Conference held in Darwin this month to learn about ‘unleashing the power of evaluation’.

The conference ran from 8-12 September at Charles Darwin University and aimed to recognise the diversity of interest in and contributions to better evaluation.

Topics covered including program logic, development of performance measures, influence and impact of evaluation, intangible benefits, learning from programs in education, environmental sustainability, university research, indigenous and social programs within Australia & NZ and internationally.

Rangelands NRM’s Project Management Systems and Evaluation Manager, Dr Penny Cooke attended the event and said her personal highlight was plenary speaker Prof Jean King, Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development from the University of Minnesota.

“Jean opened her lively presentation while describing her role in MESI saying that evaluation is ‘messy’; evaluators use methodologies that have to account for complexity in projects where there is adaptive action and adaptive management,” Dr Cooke said.

“This is complicated further because evaluation requires working in with policy, where politicians demand certain methodologies, and want guaranties of social outcomes!”

Professor King told how she had investigated ‘free range evaluation methods’ that reminded her of free-range hens – again ‘messy’. She also discussed how evaluation staff in in social programs need capacity building, so as to be able to teach funders a different way of thinking.

Professor King also serves as Director of the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute (MESI) and coordinates the all-university Program Evaluation minor.