If you are looking for an affordable way to connect to other professionals working in the field of M&E and to gain access to the latest resources and thinking, you should consider joining one or more evaluation associations. Even though most associations listed below have a regional or country affiliation, most often you do not need to be a citizen or resident of the region or country to join. You’ll find that your fellow professionals working in M&E are a generally friendly, resourceful, informative, and welcoming bunch.
Here are ten reasons why you should join an evaluation association.
1. Global, regional, national and municipal connections – multi-lingual too.
The growth and diversity of evaluation associations over the last 10 years has been phenomenal. While some of the earliest and biggest associations were in North America, Europe and Australia, today you’ll find associations across the globe. While English has been the dominant language, today you’ll find associations for Russian or Spanish speakers (just to name two). Some of the associations have thousands of members, while others might have less than 50. Both EvalPartners and the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE) have been doing great work recently in gathering information about national and global associations – which they have tagged as Voluntary Organizations of Professional Evaluators (VOPEs). Explore IOCE’s current list of known VOPEs/associations found in our world. If your country does not have an association, consider starting one with counterparts in your country (IOCE has case studies and tips on getting started).
2. Professional networking.
Evaluation associations will connect you quickly to others working in your same field. Most of us become engaged in M&E not through a single academic discipline or path, but in a round-about manner. Let’s face it, since there are very few universities where you can earn a degree in evaluation, most of us have academic training in areas such as economics, education, public administration and sociology (to name a few). But professional evaluation associations allow us to have a professional “home” and to meet others with similar interests and experiences. If social media is of interest to you, there are professional LinkedIn and Facebook groups. And if you are in the job market, many associations promote job openings.
3. M&E resources.
Association websites are the place to look for the sharing of information, resources and tools – and most of these are available free of charge. Many of the better-resourced associations with well-supported websites (such as the American Evaluation Association or the Canadian Evaluation Society) have made finding what you need pretty easy - through the use of keyword searches and a logical organization of these resources. They have already done much of the filtering and organizing of the best resources for you. Though not quite an association, BetterEvaluation is also making the work of organizing resources a focus of their efforts. Some groups focusing on specific evaluation approaches are also very useful to keep on your watch list, including 3IE, JPAL, and MyM&E . Check them out!
Some of the more established associations sponsor journals. With these journals – many of which are peer reviewed – you will find the latest research in the field, with M&E professionals in mind as the primary users of the articles. In addition to being a reader of these journals, you could consider submitting an article in one of these journals to share your experiences and research, and to add to your curriculum vitae. Here is the Evaluation Journal of Australasia, sponsored by the Australasian Evaluation Society.
Many associations issue monthly or quarterly newsletters by email. For example, here are links for newsletters from the European Evaluation Society (EES). This is a great way to find association news, upcoming events, profiles of members, new resources, and similar topics. You will surely find nuggets of information that will be useful to you or that you can pass on to colleagues who will value them. And you’ll look like a hero for providing that “just in time” information to your boss who is interested in the topic on the newsletter’s front page.
We love the AEA365 Blog from the American Evaluation Association. The AEA365 blog invites members to produce 500 character blog postings that are sent once a day to subscribers. Who doesn’t have time to read 500 characters, roughly three to five short paragraphs? These blog postings are short and “to the point” – providing readers with an introduction on a topic and then links to supporting resources, with an emphasis on practical information. And the AEA365 Blog occasionally features blogs from others, so this is a good place to find and follow blogs that might be of interest to you. Oh, and if you have a blog idea in mind, most bloggers welcome “guest” bloggers. So submit your ideas!
7. Conferences. Annual – or less regular – conferences tend to be “the” main events that associations sponsor and are a fantastic opportunity for you to meet fellow professionals engaged in M&E, attend and give presentations, participate in mini-workshops, serve in leadership positions, and gain all sorts of energy and insights that you will draw upon when you return to your job. You will come into contact with the authors of many evaluation books that you have on your bookshelves, so be sure to introduce yourself to them. Of course, you might need to travel to these conferences, but if you can find the resources, they are generally worth your time. And if you do attend the conferences, make sure that you take advantage of all that they offer – from keynote speeches to social events. Here are some of the bigger conferences this calendar year. An important conference will be held in South Asia soon through the Evaluation Conclave. The Canadian Evaluation Society Conference is held annually. Finally, the American Evaluation Association’s annual conference always draws people from across the globe. We expect that the African Evaluation Association will soon be announcing their next conference dates and location. Remember, you don’t need to be a citizen or resident of most of these places to participate.
Are you looking for a webinar on a topic? How about a longer course that you could attend? Or maybe you would like to exchange ideas with colleagues working in a similar area. Evaluation associations are often the best place for you to look to find a list of upcoming and archived learning opportunities. Some of them maintain discussion groups that you can so you can ask questions and share opinions and ideas of your colleagues working in the same field, for instance on environmental evaluation. AEA maintains a comprehensive list of learning events. And of course, be sure to check out what is happening with our CLEAR centers.
Unlike many professional associations which might charge hundreds to thousands of US dollars for membership, evaluation associations tend to provide excellent value for the money. To give you an idea of rates, here are what some of the bigger evaluation associations charge for annual memberships in 2013: $95USD for AEA; £84.00 for the UK Evaluation Society (UKES); $165CAN for the Canadian Evaluation Society (CES); and R380 for the South Africa Monitoring and Evaluation Society (SAMEA). You’ll see that most are in the range – roughly – of $75 to $150USD, with some charging less or no fees at all. And conference fees are similarly affordable. In addition to the relatively low costs for membership and conference participation, there are often reduced rates for students and others. Plus some of the associations offer scholarships/ bursaries to offset conference participation. Finally, you’ll find discounts for such things as professional books.
10. Leadership opportunities.
If you want to be more than a member and to share your leadership talents, all of these associations are looking for members to take on leadership duties. You might start out organizing a small committee event. Or you might review conference proposals. Or you might find yourself wanting to run for an elected leadership position. These associations are largely member run, with very few associations having a professional staff of employees to run them. But that’s what makes them great, in one respect. People who commit themselves to working together to strengthen the M&E profession – and, in turn, the beneficiaries of our work – are the heart and soul of evaluation associations. So are you ready not just to join an association, but to take advantage of all that associations have to offer, and…maybe to become a leader in your association?