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AES Blog

Welcome to the AES Blog

Australasia has some excellent evaluators. More than that, we have an evaluation community full of ideas and a willingness to share. The AES has long provided a place for us to come together, at regional events and the annual conference, to develop our community together. Now we’re taking it online! The new AES blog will be a space for AES members – both new and experienced – to share their perspectives, reflecting on their theory...

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Australia’s Indigenous Evaluation Strategy: Making good on the promise of centring Indigenous experience

by Danielle Campbell, Marlkirdi Rose Napaljarri and Linda Kelly

Indigenous people in Australia and internationally are increasingly calling for monitoring and evaluation that supports self-determination, decolonisation and better outcomes for their communities.

In this blog, we share some of what we have learned together – as Indigenous and non-Indigenous community development advocates and evaluators – from our work in the Tanami Desert in Central Australia. We hope that by sharing some of our key lessons, from 10 years of trials, successes and failures, we can contribute to the discussion about whether and how genuinely co-created Indigenous evaluation can be done in Australia.

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Evaluator Career Pathways

by Charlie Tulloch

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As we move into 2021 after an interrupted 2020, it is a good time to reflect on the place of evaluators in the working world. It is clear that many sectors and vocations have been forced to significantly upscale, downscale or adapt to changing economic and global circumstances.

Fortunately for us, there remains a central role for evaluation to play in the face of increasing challenges, demanding an ongoing need for analysis of policy and program successes and failures. Indeed, evaluators now face an increasingly diverse set of choices when it comes to defining their career directions.

The final Australian Evaluation Society's Victorian seminar of 2020 explored this topic in depth, drawing on the wisdom and experiences of six fantastic evaluators of different ages, genders, study backgrounds and vocational sectors (academia, private, government, international development, philanthropy). This article reflects on the insights from this session.

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The AES Awards for Excellence are evolving!

by Ian Patrick, Wei Leng Kwok and Farida Fleming, Co-Chairs, Awards and Recognition Working Group

The AES Awards for Excellence in Evaluation have a long history of recognising and promoting outstanding contributions to the theory, practice and use of evaluation. The awards acknowledge and showcase excellence in terms of professionalism, ethical conduct and the actual evaluation work conducted. They are important in terms of highlighting quality standards and cutting-edge practice. Details of previous award recipients can be found here.

In 2021, the AES will introduce exciting changes to the awards including new award categories, and an increased emphasis on learning. The AES Awards and Recognition Working Group (ARWG) which has responsibility for the AES Awards on behalf of the AES Board has recently completed a review of the awards program. The review was timely and enabled assessment of whether the awards were still fit for purpose and how they aligned with the AES strategic focus. The year of 2020 also allowed space for the review, as during this year the awards were postponed due to the COVID-19 situation. The review involved assessment of recent award performance, examination of the practice of peer evaluation associations, and interviews with key stakeholders.

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The AES Fellows: More than the sum of their individual contributions

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by Anthea Rutter

Over the past two years I have written a monthly blog on our AES Fellows, including Jenny Neale who we sadly lost in 2019.

Looking at the demographics we are a good mix of men and women (with nine male and 11 female Fellows) and cover most states in Australia. However, there are still some gaps in our representation – with no current Fellows from Queensland and the Northern Territory and no Indigenous Fellows.

The process of becoming a Fellow in the AES is very thorough. Apart from needing to be nominated by two people, prospective Fellows have to demonstrate knowledge and experience in a number of areas, including practical evaluation, teaching as well as holding office in the AES. For myself, I regard being a Fellow as an honour as well as a responsibility.

As a group the Fellows, have amassed an abundance of skills and expertise. I felt it was a real privilege to interview them to understand their hopes and their disappointments, as well as their career highlights. This final piece on our Fellows sums up their insights and my own. As professionals in their field, they have honed their craft and have given back to their profession in spades

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Systems Thinking in the Sunshine State

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by AES QLD Committee Members

Evaluators in the AES network are increasingly being challenged to apply evaluative thinking, methods and tools to innovative, emergent, place-based or otherwise complex initiatives. These initiatives often seek to achieve improvements not only in individuals and institutions, but in the systems that hold 'wicked' societal problems in place. The desired systems-level outcomes are often difficult to define, predict and measure and can change and evolve as the implementing organisations learn which strategies are most effective in reaching their goal.

In response, a recent issue of the AES QLD regional committee's newsletter focussed on resources, methods and mindsets to support members to in evaluating  complex systems change initiatives. Here are the take-outs.

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Alan Woodward: Applying knowledge to improve service delivery and community outcomes

by Anthea Rutter

Alan has worked in evaluation for a number of years. He works in mental health and suicide prevention as a policy adviser, program developer and researcher/evaluator. He has held senior executive positions at Lifeline Australia, including the establishment of the Lifeline Research Foundation. He is a part-time Commissioner with the National Mental Health Commission.

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The animal farm and a postal worker: A fable about evaluators and evaluation champions

by Alison Rogers

Once upon a time there was a diverse range of animals working hard to run a productive farm. Among the committed and dedicated team there were five dogs. In addition to retrieving, herding, and sniffing for wild produce, their role was to guard the premises. The dogs were friendly to the milkmaid and grocer, but for some reason, they growled and barked at the postal worker.

One day, when the postal worker was due to deliver mail, four of the dogs were distracted by a commotion on the other side of the farm. No one was watching the mailbox except for the dog known as Champ. He stayed by the gate, as he was meant to do. He observed the postal worker walk closer, and when she made no attempt to enter the premises, he stayed quietly vigilant and let her get on with her job. Champ even started wagging his tail.

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AES FestEVAL - Celebrating and Challenging Evaluation!

by Jade Maloney and Lia Oliver

This has been a challenging year, with Covid-19 impacting our home, social and working lives. In a recent survey run by the AES, three-quarters of respondents said their work has been impacted at least moderately – by changing scope and timelines and, in some cases, cancelled contracts. And that’s before we get to the impact Covid-19 has had on our connections and wellbeing.

The Australian Evaluation Society’s (AES) FestEVAL provided opportunity to take time out, celebrate evaluation and connect. It began with four provocations for evaluation in our times, designed to seed conversations that would continue throughout the week.

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Colin Sharp: A long association with the AES

by Anthea Rutter Colin has held a number of roles within the field of evaluation for over 37 years. He has managed evaluations across the Commonwealth Government and has been a private consultant as well as an educator in evaluation. He has worked with a dozen universities, including long associations with the Flinders...
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Rick Cummings: Looking back on a career well spent from anthropologist to evaluator

September 2020by Anthea Rutter Rick has been in the field of evaluation for over 40 years. He has been President of the AES and conference convenor. These days, he balances work as Emeritus Professor at Murdoch University, running a small consultancy, providing training in evaluation, chairing AES Fellows and participa...
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