LASER PULSE Shares ERT Model @ AEA Conference

LASER PULSE Shares ERT Model @ AEA Conference

Between November 7-12, LASER PULSE sent a delegation to the American Evaluation Association (AEA) Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, to facilitate discussion around its Embedded Research Translation (ERT) model and application in LASER PULSE projects and learn with other attendees about innovative approaches toward evaluation. 

Catholic Relief Services (CRS)’ Alexandra Towns and Laura Riddering, Indiana University’s Chris Rice, University of Notre Dame’s Fred Rossi, and Purdue University’s Yuehwern Yih facilitated a roundtable discussion on ERT and re-shaping how we measure impact in research projects. With a diverse room full of evaluators, researchers, and practitioners, the delegation discussed (1) collecting and utilizing data to address power imbalances between project actors, (2) harnessing digital data from practitioners in the field to assess impact, and (3) identifying effective ways to evaluate impact of research projects in complex environments. LASER PULSE will utilize the information received to monitor projects’ progress and assess their impacts.

Image 1: (Left to Right) LASER PULSE representatives Christopher Rice (Indiana University), Dr. Alexandra Towns and Dr. Laura Riddering (Catholic Relief Services), Dr. Frederick Rossi (University of Notre Dame), and Dr. Yuehwern Yih (Purdue University)
Image 2: Catholic Relief Services’ Dr. Laura Riddering presenting on a literature review of research translation to inform the Embedded Research Translation model

Laura Riddering later led a presentation of a research translation literature review, which LASER PULSE has used to inform its ERT model and capacity strengthening resources for its projects. This session placed LASER PULSE and ERT in discussion with the conference theme, to (re)shape evaluation together, through a reflection on roles and biases in translational research and evaluation. The full literature review will be made publicly available in the future and is currently under review in a peer-reviewed journal. 

These events allowed LASER PULSE opportunities to share and receive feedback on its model for ERT, an innovative and participatory approach to ensuring research impact by way of direct partnership with communities, NGOs, and governments.

LASER PULSE was excited to be a part of AEA 2022 in order to challenge how we are thinking about research translation and evaluation, to reflect on the paradigms we face while measuring research impact, and to learn new skills and approaches from top evaluators working in evaluating complex changes around the globe. The focal area of equity, social justice, and decolonization was especially relevant for our ERT model,” said Dr. Alexandra Towns, Research Translation Strategy Lead at LASER PULSE.

Image 3: Catholic Relief Services’ Dr. Alexandra Towns leading a presentation and discussion on Embedded Research Translation and measuring impact in research projects

Other sessions at the AEA event allowed LASER PULSE staff to engage in skill building, idea sharing, and networking in the field of evaluation. Attending AEA this year is particularly relevant given LASER PULSE’s recent efforts in assessing the early impact of the ERT model through many of its projects, including work on food security in Kenya, education in Uganda, pollution in Vietnam, and private sector engagement around the world. Opportunities to continue to iterate on the ERT model and fine-tune its evaluation approaches will continue to place LASER PULSE in a strong position to assess research impact as many of our projects conclude this fiscal year.

We are what we measure. With complex and chaotic settings like global development, it’s crucial to effectively measure and assess the actual impacts we’re making at multiple levels. At LASER, we value evidence-informed decision making and understand the power of evaluation for international development programming,” said Yuehwern Yih, Academic Director of LASER PULSE.

Also representing LASER PULSE was Willie Burgess, Director of the Purdue Evaluation and Learning Research Center, who presented her experiences, methods, and preliminary results as the PI of a LASER PULSE project to conduct a baseline evaluation of an education program in Somalia.

Image 4: Willie Burgess and her team going over the methodology for their baseline evaluation of an education program in Somalia

The conference’s focal areas included digital data and technology, new actors and social finance, and equity, social justice, and decolonization. The AEA Conference will reconvene in Indianapolis, Indiana (USA) in October 2023.

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