Please enjoy this interlude to our ongoing project series (we will pick back up next week talking about Energy Wise Alliance) for this special bulletin about our NOLA Evaluation Community of Practice!
Evaluation in NOLA
“Ohhhh snap.” Said my sandal strap and my internal dialogue in unison. It was midway through the night and I was high in the hills of Rio de Janeiro, quite a (literal) hike away from my bed. We were at a pre Carnaval dance party in Tabajaras, a favela right above Copacabana. I apparently was Samba-ing too hard and blew a shoe way too early. I was sitting there, looking at my shoe, trying to figure out how to piece it back together so I could get back on the dance floor and eventually back to my apartment. While I was giving up and intending on moving forward barefoot, a man from the community came up to me and gave me the sandals he was wearing so I could make it home. He gave me the ACTUAL SHOES OFF HIS FEET! It was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me, and I wasn’t even a permanent part of his community. My group in Rio was close with their community, both in proximity and friendships, and we did a lot of things with them, but to be so included in their community when I truly had done nothing to merit it except to show up, was a mind blowing experience for me. It really drove home the importance of our communities and the people we surround ourselves with, and now I feel even more lucky to live in a city like New Orleans, where community is so intrinsic!
Community is a pivotal part of the human experience.
It gives us comfort, validity, and comradery! It helps us battle disasters, hurricanes (I see you Irma), and adversity. It gives us resilience in the face of tragedies, loss, and injustice. Most importantly, it provides us with a larger family and helps us to feel like we have somewhere to belong!
Yesterday, we had our FIRST EVERRRRRRRR community event for evaluation in New Orleans! Dun dun duhhhhh..
Welcome NOLA EVAL!
We were in the company of many interesting individuals -- a few who are already influencing the greater good in the field as well as a few who were just interested in what we do as evaluators! We had local eval representatives from Flux, Learning Design+Strategy, and Louisiana Public Health Institute.
It was fantastic.
Normally, the evaluation landscape in New Orleans is kind of lonely…
People typically are not even aware of what the word “evaluation” means in a professional sense (see first post!), and this isn’t just a New Orleans thing… it’s a worldwide phenomenon. I guess that is the trouble of being a part of a new field! The national association (American Evaluation Association/AEA) does not really have a presence locally, with the closest chapters being in Houston, Atlanta, and the Florida Panhandle (talk about a commute!!) And even with the AEA there is only a conference once a year, so overall very little opportunity to come together with peers to swap best practices, stories, and ideas!
Being surrounded by peers in the profession and those who recognize how cool evaluation is was extremely refreshing! It was inspiring to see what fun and interesting things for the future of this community of practice our small group of people came up with in only an hour and a half.
In the first few minutes we hashed out some misunderstandings regarding the scientific rigor and viability of qualitative analysis and the beauty of mixed methods! We got to discuss the pros and cons of qualitative vs quantitative and how they can best work together, all while gaining ideas about how we could share our specific skills in these areas with the rest of the group!
Community building at its finest...taking differences, discussing them, and finding a way to build ourselves up as a result!
Next we want to start having internal case study exchanges and discussions to educate the group about projects or professional skills that we find particularly informational and interesting.
Overall, we are stoked to report that the New Orleans evaluation community is GROWING!!!
We are currently scheduling the next meeting and have tons of great ideas for our future. We plan on doing two meetings a month, one lunch time meeting and one evening meeting.
Contact us at Flux if you want to jump on board!
My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOLA EVAL Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/nolaeval/