Identifying as an Evaluator

By Bridgit Adamou, MPH. A blog post from the American Evaluation Association’s 2016 conference shares conference experiences, including thoughts on identifying as an evaluator.

Bridgit at Evaluation 2016
Bridgit Adamou at the AEA conference

By Bridgit Adamou, Research Associate, MEASURE Evaluation

ATLANTA, GA—I have had the privilege to attend the American Evaluation Association’s (AEA) 2016 conference in its 30th year—which is my inaugural year. 

I didn’t really know what to expect, particularly because I primarily see myself as an international family planning (FP) person, familiar with other FP people, topics, and studies.  Will I have enough in common with the fellow conference attendees? Do I really have much to contribute to an evaluation agenda? Will the evaluation discussions interest me and seem particularly relevant to my professional work? I can now confidently answer yes to all of those questions. 

Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion with three of my MEASURE Evaluation colleagues. My presentation topic was on monitoring and evaluating male engagement in family planning programs. This is a relatively new approach to family planning and the conference offered a wonderful opportunity to discuss a quandary we face: While this approach is important and increasingly popular, it also faces significant challenges when it comes to evaluating the success and impact we are or are not having.

Later in the day, I attended another presentation that I found highly relatable. It concerned an evaluation of a comprehensive sexual education program in upstate New York. Despite the fact that this was a domestic intervention of a curriculum I am not especially familiar with, I found the challenges quite similar—obtaining stakeholder approval and input on a sensitive topic; ensuring data quality; and deciding the best way to disseminate study findings so they would be used.

Today’s plenary speaker, Heather Fleming, CEO of Catapult Design, spoke to the conference’s theme, which is the integration of design and evaluation. By profession, Heather does not identify as an evaluator.  She’s a product designer, who seeks to improve people’s lives through better design for products people interact with daily.

This interested me, in part, because my father has been a product designer for more than 50 years—his entire career. I never thought about how his work and the translation of his ideas, creativity, and artistic ability, stem from the identification and evaluation of a problem. Sort of like what I and MEASURE Evaluation do—but for health, a vastly different arena.

I must admit that I still see myself as an “FP person,” but this conference has shown me that I should also see myself as an “evaluator” too.

Learn more about MEASURE Evaluation at Evaluation 2016.

Filed under: Evaluation , Family Planning
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