The early career evaluator research project
by Aneta Cram, Francesca Demetriou and Eunice Sotelo
We’ve heard it time and again: people don’t necessarily set out to be evaluators, but fall into the field. For those of us relatively new or emerging, this can be confusing to navigate.
As three self-identified early career evaluators (ECEs), who also grapple with what it means to be ‘early career’ or ‘emerging’, we were interested to learn more about how ECEs orient themselves, set their career pathway, and build their evaluation capacity. For the past eight months we‘ve been working on a research project exploring the experiences that current self-identified ECEs have had entering into and developing themselves across the diverse range of entry pathways and work contexts in Australia and, in part, New Zealand.
We chose to take an exploratory approach to this research for a number of reasons. For one, we wanted to hear peoples’ lived experiences and be able to share them without the confines of a set analytical framework. Secondly, we didn’t know what would emerge or what we would find. From our own experiences as ECEs working in different sectors in Australia and abroad, we knew what interested us about entering the field, but – because of the variety of individuals and experiences – we didn’t want to make any assumptions about who our research participants might be or what their experiences have been.
Our overarching research questions were: What are early career evaluator experiences in entering and developing careers in the evaluation profession? What facilitating factors, opportunities and challenges emerge as important to early career evaluators in their experience entering and developing a career in the evaluation profession?
We decided to contact ECEs through evaluation associations and our own professional networks and asked them to support our work by sharing project information with their networks. From this, we received responses from 49 self-identified ECEs.
Even though we would have liked to have interviewed them all, as this is a voluntary project, we only had the capacity to interview 14. The 14 were ECEs from 5 different states in Australia and New Zealand. We wanted to include a diverse range of individuals and so chose our participants based on age range, geographical location, sectors and cultural identity.
We are excited to share with you some of our emerging findings and see if they align or differ from your own experiences entering the evaluation field.
From the preliminary analysis, some of the stand-out findings are:
- There is ambiguity around what it means to be in the ‘early career’ or ‘emerging’ stages of evaluation work.
- Peer support and mentorship, access to training and resources, and the role of evaluation associations have important roles in facilitating support for early career evaluators.
- Early career evaluators experience different and unique enablers and challenges across the variety of workplace contexts.
- Individuals have faced challenges around age discrimination, cultural representation in the field, and how identity plays out in the way that individuals approach evaluation practice.
- Early career evaluators bring unique and diverse values, experiences and lenses to evaluation from their prior professional experience, life experiences and identities.
You can read the emerging findings report here. We will be presenting these early findings and conducting a participatory sensemaking session on Wednesday, 18 September, at the Australian Evaluation Society’s conference. We will be incorporating feedback from the conference session into the final report. Come along and help us make sense of the Australian and New Zealand ECE experience/s.
The research team includes:
Francesca Demetriou (Project Lead) works as a freelance evaluation consultant. She also volunteers her Monitoring and Evaluation skills to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Professional Mentoring Program.
Aneta Katarina Raiha Cram is a Māori and Pākeha (caucasian) evaluator from Aotearoa New Zealand. Her primary evaluation experience has been grounded in Kaupapa Māori, a culturally responsive indigenous way of approaching evaluation and research that prioritises Māori knowledge and ways of being, working with Māori communities in New Zealand. Aneta identifies as an ECE. She is currently working as a sole contractor, and has been living and working in the United States and will be returning to New Zealand early next year to begin her next journey as a Doctoral Candidate.
Eunice Sotelo is an educator and evaluator, with a particular interest in evaluation capacity building. Before moving to Australia over three years ago, she worked as a high school teacher, copywriter and copy editor. Her experience as a migrant – moving to Canada from the Philippines as a teenager, and working in China for two years – has shaped the way she sees her role in the evaluation space. She recently volunteered as mentor and trainer for the Lived Experience Evaluator Project (LEEP) at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.