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October 2013 Blog Update

The year is rapidly coming to a close.  Some months have passed since my last update – and its now not far off Christmas!  In this time, we have managed a visit back to Canada (now that it has warmed up!) to visit family and grandchildren in Vancouver and explore the wilderness in the Rockies and Inner-Passage in Alaska!  More on that later!

It has been another hectic time for evaluation and it brings some fascinating trends.  There is significant interest at state and national industry levels on developing Monitoring and Evaluation Frameworks for guiding investment and reporting back on that investment.  It reminds me of the early 1990s when there was widespread interest in state governments in having Extension Policies and strategies.  I was involved in developing the Extension Strategy Statement at the time for the then Queensland Department of Primary Industries and this turned into my PhD on the ‘meaning’ of an extension policy.

There is, of course, a strong need to link monitoring and evaluation frameworks with the policies and strategies to bring about change – so it has been quite a delay in time to reach this point!  Now that it is time, I am appreciating being part of it.  I would love to see the day when all Rural Development and Natural Resource Management programs are consistently and effectively being evaluated and their impacts captured and reported!  I see that as part of the mission of our business.

Back to Vancouver.  The grandchildren are growing up and we were able to explore around Vancouver with their mother, Jocie, and their Uncle Ben!  The picture on the horse was taken at the Butchet Gardens (http://www.butchartgardens.com/) – a favourite place of ours on Vancouver Island. We also managed the aquarium, zoo and science centre.

After being able to play grandparents for a little bit and sadly waving off the family as they went back to the wilds of Qubec, we hired a car and drove over the Rockies to Banf. That’s quite the experience! It made Australia’s Great Dividing Range look very small!  Between the lakes and the mountains – many still capped in snow – it was a very scenic drive.

We followed this up with a week on a wilderness experience – small boat in the inner passage in Alaska from Juneau to Ketchiken. The challenge was to find whales and bears (not in the same place of course).  One interesting element for me was that there was NO internet or phone access!!!!  It took me a while to manage the shakes.  Fortunately Ben was working and the business continued!

We ended up spending some hours drifting among a large pod of feeding humpback whales – lots of pictures of tails disappearing into the deeps.  And, we finally managed to track down bears – including a close encounter with a Brown (Grizzly) mother and cubs!   All part of the experience.  We all survived the encounter and were able to spend some time watching black bears get the last of the salmon run!

The next outing will be to the International Farming Systems Conference, Berlin, to deliver a paper on the evaluation of a co-innovation project that I am working with in New Zealand.  I am expecting to catch up with a good number of people from past days at Wageningen and beyond!

Speaking of Wageningen (where I did my PhD) – anyone for a PhD study on the meaning of monitoring and evaluation frameworks?