Editorial Comment: Thanks to Pablo Rodriguez-Bilella for today’s blog on the use of listservs to develop individual evaluation capacity. (You can read this post in Spanish in Pablo’s blog Al Borde del Caos).
The last decade has witnessed major changes in how we exchange and share information through electronic means. In the evaluation world, this is expressed mainly by the use of listservs, discussion groups via email.
Because of its versatility and ease of use, listservs have played a significant role in facilitating the exchange and flow of information. To subscribe to them is very simple, consisting usually in sending an email to an address listed on their homepage. An important advantage is that once we are accepted into the groups, we can set some options according to our needs. For example, and until we get to live in a world without email, at least it is possible to receive a Digest email, with the exchanges of a day in a particular group. If we dispense altogether with deliveries to our mailbox, we can access (once we are subscribed) to the group’s website, and read and respond to the messages from there.
No doubt that, in the world of evaluation, these groups have become a preferred option to keep track of discussions and topics in the limelight. The exchanges that often occur are often times great doors for inquiry and self-training, an important dimension of evaluation capacity development. Some examples of these groups (with brief summary descriptions of their original sites) are these ones:
XCeval, co-moderated by Craig Russon and Jim Rugh, is a listserv for persons interested in issues associated with international and cross-cultural evaluation. Many of the postings are announcements of short-term consultancies or full-time positions in international M&E-related jobs. Also exchanges of ideas of current interest to persons involved in the evaluation of international development.
The MandE NEWS mailing list is part of the MandE NEWS website at www.mande.co.uk. Visitors to the website are invited to use the mailing list to exchange information with each other about monitoring and evaluation issues, especially as they relate to international development aid. The Editor of MandE NEWS will also use the mailing list to inform list members about significant updates to the MandE NEWS website. The MandE NEWS mailing list is managed by the Editor, Rick Davies.
The Theory-Based Evaluation discussion list has around 450 members, is moderated by Denis Jobin and Craig Russon, and it aims to provide a forum where practitioners and scholars can exchange and share ideas, lessons and methods associated with theory-based evaluation. In the context where evaluation is challenged by attribution, complex systems and the need for evidence-based policies, theory-based evaluation is seen as an effective response to these challenges.
Other discussion lists are often associated with networks and regional or global associations of evaluators (which the EvalPartners Initiative calls VOPEs -Voluntary Organizations of Professional Evaluators). These include the following:
ReLAC, discussion list of the Latin American Network of Monitoring, Evaluation and Systematization. The list has around 600 members, and it circulates information about training, conferences, consulting, etc.. More recently the use of the platform NoticiasReLAC has enabled the creation of several thematic groups (for instance, in sistematization, gender and human rights, planning and logic models, educational policy, and others).
The AfrEA Community listserv is the information and networking tool of the African Evaluation Association This listserv has more than 600 members, and it aims to build on the concept of an African evaluation community and to broaden this community by further promoting the sharing of information, resources and opportunities. The AfrEA Community listserv serves as a forum for a wide range of stakeholders, from evaluators who are actively involved with monitoring and evaluation on the continent to those interested individuals who simply want to be kept up-to-date on M&E issues in Africa. Messages posted include news on local and international upcoming events (e.g. conferences, workshops, training events), employment opportunities and information requests.
The IDEAS discussion group is the group of the International Development Evaluation Association, dedicated to discussions related to development evaluation, among IDEAS members. You don´t need to be an IDEAS member to participate in the group, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea either! More recently, an IDEAS LinkedIn group has been established and, with more than 1500 members, is being moderated by Luis Alejandro Bernal.
Other evaluation discussion groups via email are:
And for a more thorough list, you can see this web page of the AEA.
From this long but not entirely comprehensive list of services, I think there are two initiatives that have original nuances regarding the ability to reach broader audiences, and these are the ReLAC platform and the IDEAS LinkedIn group. While both are easily linked with email as a way of accessing the interchanges, they also have an openness that is often absent from discussion groups and listservs. This means, for example, that any person doing a search on Google can find information and / or discussions in these forums and join them, while with the other services (mostly) you can only find out what’s being discussed once you are subscribed. Surely this has been the experience of anyone reading this post who was interested in any of the above groups, and clicking on the link has come only to a subscription page, unable to read the exchanges that occurred. Recently, for example, a debate initiated by Denis Jobin about Impact Assessment and RCT appeared in three of the aforementioned email groups, and was only accessible to those participating in them.
As I have stated previously in my blog, the Web 2.0 is ready and eager to be conquered by us. The Ning platform, the LinkedIn groups, the blogs, and Twitter are channels that facilitate opening the echo chamber in several worlds, including the evaluation one. It is worth familiarizing ourselves with this wider world.
ECDG Advisory Group