Date and time: Wednesday 18 October 2017. 5.30 - 7.00 pm
Topic: Evaluation of philanthropically funded initiatives: A funder's perspective on what good evaluation looks like
Presenter: Dr Squirrel Main, The Ian Potter Foundation
Venue: VicHealth Seminar Room, Ground Floor, 15‐31 Pelham Street, Carlton South
Register online by: Friday 13th October 2017

This is a free seminar organised by the VIC branch of the AES. Our monthly seminar series provides an opportunity for you to meet with AES members and others in Victoria and to share and learn from the experiences of fellow evaluators. Members are encouraged to bring along colleagues with an interest in the topic even if they are not yet members of the AES.


Seminar overview

Realism and sensitivity to political processes are key components of ensuring that evaluation findings are used, but what does a usable end product look like? How often do clients or funders read an 80-page report? Is political connection a prerequisite for the uptake of evaluation recommendations? What about credibility--are the majority of philanthropically-funded evaluations "good enough" to ensure government uptake of programs?

Increasingly, Australian foundations are collating and synthesising the results of their evaluations. A thorough review of over 1,000 grants made by The Ian Potter Foundation over the past five years revealed only 16% of grantees had measured all of their intended outcomes. Moreover, only 5% of the grants had an outstanding measurement and evaluation of their long-term outcomes. An appreciative inquiry approach was used to determine themes of these outstanding evaluations. These themes will be discussed in the presentation.

Additionally, all 1,000 grant recipients were asked to reflect on the process and report key learnings. Dozens of the learnings pertained to the evaluation process. These ideas range from succinct reporting to embedding stakeholders on governance committees. Again, the main themes of the review will be presented and discussed. Audience members will be encouraged to consider the practical implications of these findings in enhancing public policies and programs. Audience interaction (via PollEverywhere) will be an integral component of the seminar.

Note: This presentation was originally presented (in short format) at the AES Annual Conference in Canberra

Presenter background

Dr Squirrel Main has conducted evaluations since 1996 for schools, outdoor education programs, the US Department of Education, childcare settings, homelessness programs. She is now The Ian Potter Foundation's Research and Evaluation Manager and co-chair of Philanthropy Evaluation and Data Analytics Network.

An evaluator and a data analyst with a passion for measuring and improving outcomes across education, health and community wellbeing sectors, Squirrel completed her Masters at Stanford University in Evaluation and Policy Analysis. She finished her PhD under John Hattie and Mary Hill at the University of Auckland investigating teacher support systems in low-socioeconomic schools.

Squirrel has worked as a Senior Research Officer at the Brotherhood of St Laurence, a research assistant to Maxine McKew at the University of Melbourne as well as a research fellow on the E4Kids Project. Previously, she worked at the New Zealand Outward Bound School and began her career as a lead teacher in primary schools in California.

AES Evaluator’s Professional Domain of Competence:

Domain 1 Evaluative Attitude and Professional Practice – Engage with professional communities, reflect on practice, share ideas

Domain 2 Evaluation Theory (Theoretical Foundations, Evaluative Knowledge, Theory and Reasoning) - Evaluation standards and trends

Domain 3 Culture, Stakeholders and Context – Upstream stakeholders (context and understanding)

Domain 6 Interpersonal Skills - Collaborate and partner with stakeholders to engage them in evaluation processes

Domain 7 Evaluation Activities - Report findings in formats that are useful for client and key stakeholders


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