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American Evaluation Association Conference, 2016

posted 10 Nov 2016, 15:00 by Fiona Cram   [ updated 11 Nov 2016, 01:02 ]
This year's American Evaluation Association (AEA) conference was in Atlanta, Georgia, in the week of 24 October, 2016. The theme of the conference was Evaluation + Design.

My AEA conference for 2016 began with Nicky Bowman (Munsee/Mohican), Bowman Performance Consulting, and I facilitating a one-day preconference workshop on culturally responsive Indigenous evaluation. Once again we had a group of stunning folks who shared generously of their own knowledge and expertise, and engaged with one another and with us in friendly and thought-provoking ways. Our day began and ended with a talking circle, and we moved from there out into the conference knowing several new people.

During conference I shared accommodation with the lovely Donna Mertens. This may be the only way to share time and conversations with her about her work, her travels, and how she's igniting the world with her transformative research and evaluation paradigm. She's just completed the first draft of her new book about mixed methods research and evaluation - so if you're a nerd like me, you'll be watching out for this. Our night out at the combined TIG (topical interest group - combining Indigenous, Multiethnic, Latino/a, and LGBT TIGS) was especially memorable for the photo booth (see the pic) and great conversations with people dressed up in their halloween best.

The talking circle became a feature of our presentations, with those attending able to share their feedback and questions with the wider group. This has convinced us that what we have to say should only occupy half of any session, with the remainder devoted to audience participation. We were blessed in our workshop, at some of our presentations, and at our Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation TIG meeting to have Mark Parman (Cherokee) open our gatherings. A special treat was the blow-up camp fire he brought to conference for these occasions.

On Saturday afternoon Mark drove us to New Echota, where 16000 Cherokee were forced out of their homeland in 1838 and on to the Trail of Tears. This was an especially moving visit, and reminded me that an Indigenous homeland can be so easily lost to racism and capitalism. This is not history, as it’s playing itself out again and again. See, for example, current events at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. So AEA is always so much bigger than AEA. Mostly it’s an opportunity to connect with friends and colleagues and to find out how the ‘fight’ for social justice, equity and decolonisation is going.