Here’s a quick guide to some of the forthcoming free and paid-for conferences, training and networking opportunities that might help develop your evaluation and research skills this year.

Conferences and training

1. The Visitor Studies Group 2023 conference is focused on my favourite topic: inclusive practice. It takes place between 18 – 19 May at ISH Venues in London and online. If you’re interested in submitting a proposal, you’ll need to be quick, submissions close on 8 February. Quick tip: if you’re not on the Visitor Studies Group Jiscmail it’s easy to sign up.

2. The Market Research Society is my go-to for training and ethics. Their 2023 conference is focused on growth, with David Olusoga just announced as the keynote speaker. Insight Alchemy takes place on 14 March at Hilton London Bankside. Member/non-member rates are available.

3. Many of us will be familiar with Museum Next and their range of conferences both in-person and online. Their new Green Museums Summit takes place between 27-28 March and is a great addition to their regular series of events. It offers a timely opportunity to reflect on how we can make our evaluation and research processes more environmentally sound and sustainable. (By the way, you can read my commitment to environmental wellbeing and green freelancing in my sustainability policy).

4. The UK Evaluation Society always have a huge selection of networking and formalised training events in their calendar. This year is no exception, with a range of webinars already open for booking (with many open to non-members). They also have a conference planned for 2023: their call for abstracts will be released shortly.

5. The Audience Agency work closely with the Centre for Cultural Value in Leeds (CCV), including supporting organisations and individuals to embed a suite of new (and brilliant) Evaluation Principles. Co-designing evaluation with community participants taking place on 22 February is one of a series of events open for booking which focuses on the collaborative and people-centred principles of evaluation. And the best thing of all – it’s free.

6. I’ve done a lot of training with the New Economics Foundation over the years. Their measuring social impact and theory of change courses are excellent, and there are dates coming up between January and March for these. They also usually run a session on measuring health and wellbeing outcomes, so look out for that too.

7. If you’re wanting to specifically upskill in qualitative methods, check The Association of Qualitative Researchers training programme. Most events are open to members and non-members. Their next online moderation course takes place on 30 March.

8. GEM’s new course on anti-racist practice in museums caught my eye – it starts this Spring (the date hasn’t yet been announced but one to watch out for) and there’s also a range of sessions based on their competency framework, including a new museums basic course which covers evaluation and audience research planning (in week 2). It starts on 20 February for five weeks.

Other useful stuff to read / join / support

9. The CCV I mentioned earlier are doing a great job at getting practitiners and organisations to scrutinise their evaluation processes and principles. Further events are planned this year to collaboratively share learning of how those principles are working (or not) in practice. Make sure you sign up for their emails for all the latest news on policy, events and ways to get involved. (NB Their Collaborate Fund is currently open for UK-based academics with an online briefing taking place on 25 January).

10. I tend to use a lot of reflective processes within my evaluation practice. There’s rarely an independent evaluator contract goes by without some kind of reflection workshop or opportunity built in for participants, artists or volunteers to undertake reflective activities. This free, new toolkit just published from the University of Edinburgh is great. It contains a wealth of ideas and activities around theoretical and practical reflective exercises based on experience. Dig around and you’ll find a whole load of other useful training videos and resources too, especially if you’re a facilitator.

Have you spotted anything interesting with an evaluation and research focus that you think should be on this list? Let me know @margeainsley /

Finally, a quick plug for the LIANZA evaluation and research case studies that came out just before Christmas. (Disclaimer: I was involved in this!). Between 2020 and 2022, two cohorts of enthusiastic library and information professionals across New Zealand were supported to develop new evaluation skills through training workshops and a community of practice. Their experiences of prototyping newly designed data collection tools for evaluation and exploratory research have been collated in this publication of over 60 case studies. It makes for inspiring reading, especially if you’re trying to conduct evaluation on a shoestring or with constraints around staff capacity or buy-in for doing things differently. (A side note that I’ve also recently updated my basic checklist for evaluation which we used in this project. Hopefully it’s a helpful guide for anyone just getting started in this field of work.)

Photo credit: Moritz Knöringer on Unsplash.