Posted by: heatherbritt | September 29, 2009

Back to School (sorta)!

Lately I’ve been diving into some new literature on evaluation approaches and methods.  I’m reading faster than I can categorize and file – and that’s no metaphor.  The office is strewn with articles, graphs, and random jottings. 

But my thinking has been moving forward in fits and starts.  Sometimes an idea will collide with another in a particularly interesting way, and the spark is so sharp I have to jump up and run around the house.  Other times, I run into a brick wall.  Then, I get up and pace the living room. 

I’ve been feeling the limits of the toolbox I’ve been using when clients bring me problems and we try to figure out answers to them together.  Lately, I’ve been feeling the need to discover some new approaches.

So tomorrow, I’m heading back to school, or at least to a “virtual” classroom.  Of course, I’m planning to keep working with my current clients, but I’ll be adding on … well, a pretty heavy academic work load.

I’ve enrolled in Claremont Graduate University’s Certificate of Advanced Study in Evaluation.  The program’s designed for evaluation practitioners like me:  those who have a solid background (MA or PhD) in a related field, and significant professional M&E experience, but want to take their knowledge and skills to the next level.

The courses are all taught via conference calls and online interactions, and are designed to build a tight-knit, classroom-like feel.  Each five student cohort works with two professors throughout the program.  The program includes 32 weeks of coursework, 40 hours of professional development workshops, a practicum and a competency-based exam.  Award of the certificate requires demonstrated knowledge and competency in evaluation theory, methods, practice, and research.  The program is designed for working evaluators and will take about a year to complete.

From now until mid-December, I’ll be immersed in the Evaluation Theory, Practice and Research seminar.   I’m hoping that it provides some structure and historical grounding to my own eclectic reading list.

After that… well… LOTS more.  Wish me luck!

For more information about the Certificate of Advanced Study in Evaluation visit the website:  http://www.cgu.edu/pages/670.asp

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Posted by: heatherbritt | August 3, 2009

On Attending President Obama’s Speech to the Muslim World

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I was fortunate enough to attend President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009.

In early May, soon after the President’s speech was announced, a friend wrote excitedly to ask whether I’d like to attend. Democrats Abroad might be able to get us tickets.

You bet I wanted to go. As an American who has lived and worked in the Arab world for the better part of my adult life, the last eight years have been frustrating, when they weren’t downright embarrassing. I was still pinching myself that a man I actually admired was occupying the White House.

Now, President Obama was promising a new beginning for US foreign policy in the region. Read More…

I just got back from a one-day workshop where Jim Rugh covered the 7 steps of the RealWorld Evaluation approach. The approach aims to take evaluators and evaluation users through the process of planning and using an evaluation in a way that makes intelligent decisions in response to common constraints on budget, time, data quality and the political context of the evaluation.

The underlying theme here is that evaluation design is always a compromise reached by a variety of stakeholders.  Given that, the goal should be to maintain the rigor of results while providing evaluation solutions that suit the purpose(s) and the context.  Naturally, power dynamics between stakeholders plays a significant role.

Workshop participants engaged with the material and asked pertinent discussions, but the room really sprang to life during the afternoon role play.  The exercise involved a case study with 3 roles:  funder, project implementer and evaluation consultant.  Individuals in each of the small groups represented the various stakeholders and worked through steps to determine an evaluation design within budget constraints.  Each of the 6 tables came up with a slightly different research design, underlining the fact that negotiation skills are just as important in the evaluator toolbox as technical expertise.  For more information see www.realworldevaluation.org.

Posted by: heatherbritt | March 27, 2009

Upcoming Impact Evaluation Conference

Here in Cairo, the excitement is building around the AfrEA / NONIE / 3ie Impact Evaluation Conference coming to town 29 March – 2 April.  More than 500 people from around the world are expected to gather to discuss the theme Perspectives on Impact Evaluation:  Approaches to Assessing Impact Evaluation.  The conference itself begins Tuesday afternoon, but pre-conference workshops begin Sunday morning.

After considerable pondering of the too-many good choices I signed up for Real World Evaluation with Jim Rugh; Impact Evaluation for Development Effectiveness with Sanjeev Khagram, Andre Proctor, Zenda Ofier and Patricia Rogers; and Designing Theory-based Evaluations with Howard White.  Good stuff!

If you’ll be attending, look me up.  Otherwise, watch this space for updates on conference happenings.

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