What are Canadian universities doing to maintain their relevance and innovative edge in the teaching of program evaluation?
Our response is: A great deal. Despite the growing challenges to the federal evaluation function, there are many other sectors, including provincial, municipal, and non-profit organizations that are making significant investments due to growing demands for evaluative information, especially decisions affecting the allocation of resources. In some jurisdictions (e.g., Alberta) legislative requirements are institutionalizing program evaluation as part of a strategic review function.
To address these demands, several universities came together in 2008 to form the Consortium of Universities for Evaluation Education (CUEE). It is a voluntary association of 14 institutions whose purpose is to increase professionals’ and students’ access to graduate credentials through certificates, diplomas and degrees in evaluation. This is done by creating and sustaining opportunities to take university credit courses anywhere in Canada and have those courses count in their home institution. The vision will mean working across very strict and diverse provincial and institutional boundaries.
In addition, the CUEE assists each of its members to build capacity in their academic and professional evaluation programs, and to share expertise and research. A key role for the CUEE is to contribute to building the field in Canada not only as part of its programming for students, but also for the larger practitioner community. Faculty and instructors want to produce relevant programs and research that matter to various audiences. Academics are coming down from their towers and wanting to integrate what they and their students know into current evaluation practices.
The CUEE is working on various initiatives that contribute to its mission of national integration of university programs. First, it is working at increasing access for students to all graduate evaluation programs by identifying participating university programs and courses. The aim is to build a mechanism that allows the transfer of credit between universities.
Second, the CUEE is working with the federal and some provincial/territorial governments to put together specialized professional diplomas or certificate programs that suit local/regional contexts. These allow partnerships to be created between government bodies, professional organizations such as the Canadian Evaluation Society, and non-profit groups in order to deliver cutting-edge programs that matter to specific constituencies. At present, the CUEE is exploring ways to collaborate with the federal Centre for Excellence in Evaluation to create an introductory training program for its federal evaluator community.
Third, the CUEE is working with the Canadian Evaluation Society, the Performance and Planning Exchange (PPX), and the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration to provide a forum for evaluation students to present their latest research or projects. A key role envisaged by CUEE members is to find creative outlets for students to engage with the larger academic and practice communities through conferences, armchair discussions, webinars, and essay contests.
The CUEE has its sights set on even bigger things. It would like to create a national research centre in evaluation that would bring together research from various disciplines so all students can enjoy the fruits of this research in one place. It would engage governmental and other actors to participate, and build a Canadian field that would inform evidence-based public policy. The ultimate goal is to establish a national graduate program in evaluation that would provide central access to the best of the graduate schools in Canada. This, combined with its professional training mandate, would give students and practitioners access to a coordinated research and training capacity not seen in Canada in many fields.
What does this mean for government executives? It means that evaluation academics in multiple disciplines are finally coming together to build something new and fresh. It means that there will be a place for policymakers to explore not only their training needs, but ways to engage the academic evaluation community in relevant, professional and innovative research and projects. It also means they will have a place to have a coordinated dialogue on vexing public problems in evaluation. If this is not public engagement, then what is?
The CUEE looks forward to sharing this space on performance management and evaluation with PPX, and will be presenting regular research, public policy perspectives and other contributions from members.
For more information about the CUEE, visit our website at: www.evaluationeducation.ca