By Zazie Tolmer

The transformation theme of this year’s evaluation conference in Launceston was very timely. Michael Q. Patton, one of the keynote speakers, pointed out the recent explosion in conferences on transformation but that this is the first evaluation conference to focus on this theme (conference photo credit: Australian Evaluation Society). 

The transformation topic was approached from a number of angles with some questioning the transformative power of evaluation – can evaluation really transform? Others were looking at doing evaluation on evaluands seeking to transform – does evaluation need to change when evaluating transformation itself? And still, others were considering the opportunities to draw on from other areas such as politics, design, big data and more – how can evaluators ‘best’ contribute in a rapidly transforming context?

I attended the conference with Mila Waise, Meg Beilken and Hayley Rose, three advisors working on a Collective Impact initiative: the Children and Youth Area Partnerships. Mila, Meg and I also attended the Innovate for Impact Symposium in Melbourne where Penny HagenKate McKegg and Jamie Gamble (left to right on the photo) discussed the transformative opportunities of co-design and developmental evaluation.

So it would appear that evaluation in Australia has embraced and is well on its way to adding another string to our evaluation bow.

One of the questions I was left with following these two events was to those that have ‘transformed’: What triggered your transformation? And what was the internal change that set you on your journey of transformation?

I’m lucky enough to be working on a Collective Impact initiative that is relatively mature, almost five years old! You can hear and see pockets of people acting quite differently to how they might have acted prior to their involvement in the initiative. I ran a Theory of Change recently with some of the partners all from different organisations which regularly compete for the same bucket of funding. I was struck by how collegiate and collaborative the discussion and interactions were, and how safe people felt bringing up gaps and new ideas for the work.

Again, I’m curious to hear how they got here. Fortuitously, someone suggested we do a mini-evaluation to capture how they have transformed.

What about you: are you on a transformative journey? How are you transforming?