Week 60: Focus on Use at Conferences!

I practically jumped off of my couch when I saw the email about the theme for the European Evaluation Society Biennial Conference in September 2016 in the Netherlands – Evaluation Futures in Europe and beyond: Connectivity, Innovation and Use! USE is in the theme!!! Specifically, in the email, it states:

The three themes of the conference (connectivity, innovation and use) strike vital chords in our community’s current state of affairs. Without weaving evaluation theory and practice through innovative methods the evaluation community will not generate findings that are trustworthy and useful. Without closer connections to other sciences it will not achieve excellence. Without partnerships linking commissioners, evaluators and the citizenry, use of evaluation will falter. Nor will evaluation utilization improve human lives without professionalism, sound ethical standards and generally agreed good practice guidelines.

So often USE is something that is vaguely talked about, but it doesn’t get the priority it deserves. We all know improving use is important…but how do we do it, what tools have been successful, what has increased use led to, how has the use of evaluation findings improved the world? EES 2016 is providing the opportunity for evaluators all over the world to talk about these issues. If you’re unable to attend EES next year, you can always check out their web site for some of the publications, presentations, and discussions related to the conference. I attended EES in 2014 in Dublin, Ireland and gave a presentation about improving evaluation use, and it was well received. I can’t wait to hear what will come in 2016!

While USE may not be the primary theme at other evaluation conferences, you can always find some sessions that will be clearly applicable to improving use. Here’s two other conference opportunities that will have a focus on USE and will also happen a bit sooner than EES in September 2016:

  • American Evaluation Association - Exemplary Evaluations in A Multicultural World: Learning from Evaluation's Successes Across the Globe, November 2015 in Chicago - The Exemplary Evaluations theme is intended to inspire and energize evaluation professionals from around the world to spotlight what has gone well in evaluation. As we listen to each other’s exceptional experiences, we listen for themes of success—how were these evaluation exemplars managed? How did evaluators engage with stakeholders? How were evaluation conclusions developed, what lent them credibility, and what led to evaluation use? There is much to learn from examples of high quality, ethically defensible, culturally responsive evaluation practices that have clearly contributed to decision-making processes, program improvement, policy formulation, effective and humane organizations, and ideally to the enhancement of the public good. 
  • Michigan Association for Evaluation21st Annual Conference, April or May 2016 in Michigan – theme yet to be determined but the conference has focused more on the practical application of evaluation knowledge in the real world the last few years!

If you know of any conferences, trainings, webinars, etc. that have a focus on USE, please share here!

DR. TACKETT’S USEFUL TIP: The more we talk about USE, the more ubiquitous it will become. When focusing on the meaningful use of evaluation findings is part of the way we all do business, then I can retire!