With the American Evaluation Association (AEA) coming up November 11-16 in Minneapolis, M.N., our team has been thinking about the theme of the conference “Paths to the Future of Evaluation.” We constantly challenge ourselves to ensure our values are present in our work; our practices produce actionable learning; and that we share our experiences to build the evaluation field, and more importantly, to test our perspectives.

We’re excited to present with our evaluation colleagues and share innovative practices that lead to meaningful change in ever-changing contexts. See below for an overview our 3 sessions, and check out the AEA website to find more sessions.

First Spark-Facilitated Session

Date & Time: Thursday November 14, 2019 | 5pm – 5:45pm

Title: Managing Complexities of Community Development: A Spotlight on Evaluators’ Creativity

Spark Staff: Rebecca Ochtera, Former Associate Director

Session Colleagues: Cheryl Kelly, Kaiser Permanente Colorado; Stanley Varnhagen, University of Alberta; Timothy Marc Pearson, Wyoming Survey & Analysis Center

The Partners in Evaluation & Research Center is evaluating 9 agencies funded to reduce health disparities transform places through social, economic, political, and physical changes. The evaluation uses a logic model approach guided by an established equity-oriented framework that emphasizes the importance of addressing upstream determinants of health using comprehensive, multi-sectoral, and systems-level approaches. The evaluation is assessing if the policy, system, and environmental changes increased availability (e.g., more affordable housing), accessibility (e.g., access to vouchers), and acceptability of social and economic resources (e.g., increase residents with quality housing). Because the impacts on individual factors will not be fully realized until several years after the changes occur, the evaluators are creating evidence tables that document the likely impact the social change will have on individuals. This session will discuss their findings of how this evaluation is using an equity-oriented framework to assess the potential impact on health disparities.

Second Spark-Facilitated Session

Date & Time: Friday November 15, 2019 | 11:30am – 12:15pm

Title: Tracking Policymaker Champion Development: A New Tool to Support Policy Advocacy Evaluation and Capacity Building

Spark Staff: Joby Schaffer, Senior Researcher

Session Colleagues: Nathan Madden, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Cherie Collins Sims, MEDA

Direct policymaker engagement is a key feature of many advocacy strategies, and evaluators often aim to assess whether and how an advocacy organization contributed to a policymaker’s development into an issue champion. While various tracking tools are available, many are difficult to implement, do not provide detailed insights that enable strategic learning, or lack a means of rolling up detailed tracking to tell the story of an organization’s policymaker engagement efforts. This session will showcase a new tool developed with support from the Entrepreneur’s Policy Network (EPN), an initiative led by the Ewing and Marion Kauffman Foundation to help entrepreneur support organizations (ESO’s) engage in advocacy. Through a series of user-design sessions with the ESO’s participating in the EPN, the tool for tracking policymaker engagement was refined to better meet the needs of advocacy organizations while preserving features needed to enable the evaluation to capture insights about their policymaker engagement for reporting purposes.

This panel will provide attendees with a diverse set of perspectives on this new tool, offering them insights into how their respective groups are likely to respond to similar tracking tools. Each panelist will present on their experiences with the tool, including what it enables, what challenges arouse in either implementing or developing the tool, and what supports were essential to their continued use of the tool. The panelist will be available to answer questions from the audience, provide attendees a unique opportunity to engage not only other evaluators but a funder and an advocacy organization using the tool.

Third Spark-Facilitated Session

Date & Time: Friday November 15, 2019 | 5:45pm – 6:30pm

Title: Evaluating community engagement with a lens towards adaptive learning: Lessons drawn from two multi-site, state-wide initiatives addressing health equity

Spark Staff: Rebecca Ochtera, Former Associate Director

Session Colleagues: Veena Pankaj, Innovation Network, Inc.

There’s a growing desire among philanthropy to change policies and systems that promote inequities within society. As a result, foundations are increasingly funding initiatives that involve community members in the problem-solving process. While this involvement is more likely to generate sustainable and innovative solutions, it also underpins the importance of integrating adaptive approaches into evaluation practice to ensure we capture the process and the lessons emerging from the work.

Facilitators will present two multi-site initiatives addressing health inequity through community engagement and use these examples to generate discussion around adaptive evaluation approaches. Facilitators will highlight methods used for emergent learning and demonstrate how data collected through these approaches influenced work at both the community and funder level. Through dialogue, participants will gain insights on community engagement evaluation practices and how to strengthen their evaluation strategy to fit the changing nature of complex community engagement initiatives.