In December I had the opportunity to moderate a breakfast club event organized by the local chapters for the Canadian Evaluation Society (CES-BCY) and the Institute of Public Administration Canada (IPAC Vancouver). The theme was next year’s CES 2017 Conference theme: Facing Forward: Innovation, Action and Reflection.
It was a great event, with three interesting panelists and a lively audience of evaluation and public administration professionals, and our discussion covered a lot of ground. My favourite part was posing the question, “What is your prediction for the future of evaluation?” Perspectives varied, from the hopeful to the pessimistic, among our panelists and audience. We acknowledged that we live in a world of “fake news” with greater need for evaluation and critical, informed decision-making than ever. We discussed our potential to meet this need along with all the challenges that face us, like limited resources and the on-going need for evaluators to clearly link our work to actionable steps.
Thinking about the future also got me reflecting on the past, especially the work that my colleague Michelle Naimi (@Michelle_Naimi) and I have done organizing events for new and emerging evaluators in Vancouver over the last year. This is something I took on because as an emerging evaluator I wanted to know that there were resources and support out there for people in my position. I found an equally passionate collaborator in Michelle and much support from the CES-BCY chapter. We’ve also since met many others who are invested in our cause, from the CES Fellows and their Fellows & Entrants initiative, inaugurated at last year’s CES conference in St. John’s, to EvalYouth, a new global organization dedicated to supporting youth and new evaluators. We all want to make sure the incoming generation of evaluators will be up to meeting the demands on the profession over the coming years, for the benefit of everyone who relies on evaluation for thoughtful and effective program and policy development.
The discussion at the breakfast club event reiterated for me that the future of evaluation is not certain. None of us knows exactly what is coming or how we as a profession will respond to it. The field itself is growing and changing in exciting ways—new technology, new political landscapes, new priorities and opportunities, and ever-evolving and improving professional standards. The evaluators of today and tomorrow are facing different circumstances and challenges than those who entered the field 5, 10, or 30 years ago. While there is much we can learn from those who have gone before us, we also have to be prepared to grapple with the unknown and the uncertain, as those who founded this field did. As new evaluators, this means that as much as we should look to established evaluators for their wisdom and insights, we should also be looking to ourselves and our peers for the same. We are the future of evaluation.