Great first day at the AES conference in Perth and I am proud that Clear Horizon is sponsoring such a great event.

A great start with a strong focus on Culture. Our very own Director, Carina Calzoni, opened the conference and handed over to Shaun Nannup for the welcome to country. Shaun described the landscapes of WA vividly and invited us to centre ourselves, then link arms and focus on the 10% of all the inputs from our senses that we actually take in. Following Shaun was a great keynote from Victoria Hovane, who talked about “learning to make room”: Evaluation in Aboriginal communities. I hung on her every word, she was very generous in sharing her learnings, and gave us tips and cautions very relevant to anyone conducting evaluation in Aboriginal communities. She made a plea for us to use participatory methods and engage the community meaningfully in evaluation planning and conduct, and to leave a copy of the data behind in the communities. In question time we discussed how to create time for this sort of considered and careful engagement within the confines of our bureaucratic evaluation procurement processes.

Values in social impact. A highlight for me was going to the president of the American Evaluation Society, John Gargani’s, session on the meaning and measurement of social impact. John provided three frameworks to think about social impact. He began with the logic model, and then offered us two alternative models – the Rubin Causal Model (comparison of different outcomes and valuing them), and the DIA model – (which looks at a matrix of anticipated/unanticipated/desired and undesired impacts.) He focused a lot on how/ who makes a value determination of outcomes. It really got me thinking how a lot of the focus on Randomised Control Trials or even realist evaluation, doesn’t necessary get onto the actual value we place on the outcome. John reckoned that about 80% of our work in evaluation was focus on soft skills such as facilitation, engagement, negotiation rather than technical skills in quantitative and qualitative measures. It made me think once again about how neat Most Significant Change can be used in this space. Stay tuned for more reflections from the 2016 AES conference.

Dr Jess Dart