History of the Summit Group

The Summit Group began around September 2007. When Michael Shoemaker moved into his current position as Program Planning and Evaluation Specialist in June 2007, his direct supervisor at the time, Kyle Walker at the bequest of Don Uchida, the Executive Director of the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, encouraged Michael to start contacting different states and to find out what they were doing regarding best practices in program evaluation and quality assurance.

He began calling surrounding states and recording teleconference calls with other state vocational rehabilitation program evaluators. These calls generally lasted about an hour and a half. Michael would present these calls as a way that Utah could share with them what we do in regards to their consumer satisfaction survey, comprehensive statewide needs assessment, case file review activities and client focus groups and to give the other state the opportunity to share what they do with these program evaluation activities as well. These conversations turned out to be an excellent form of continuing education.

One of the standard questions that Michael would ask during those initial calls would be, “What resources or training do you turn to when you are developing a new or revised tool in quality assurance?” One common response is the evaluator did what their predecessor did without any changes. Another common response was that they would develop the tool themselves internally with administrators from their state agency that likely had a limited knowledge of program evaluation practices and methodology. The most common response was a long pause.

After speaking with 11 different states, it was clear that very few state agencies had any interstate contact or collaboration. Based on this information, Michael went back to his supervisor and eventually it went to Don, to request permission to host a Summit in September 2008. Michael’s supervisor asked him to contact back the 11 (that were part of a new email listserv) and he asked them to send message asking how many would be interested in coming to such a Summit. All 11 wrote back indicating that they would like to come. This came as a great and pleasant surprise. The most amazing thing is that they all did come to the 1st Summit which was held at The Quality Inn in Salt Lake City, Utah on September 25th and 26th, 2008. At the time of submitting this history on December 23, 2012, Summit Group membership on the Summit Group email listserv has reached 273 members.

As with any community of practice there were pivotal members from the beginning. Dr. Scott Sabella from the Region VIII TACE Center shared contacts and networked with recognized experts in program evaluation to come to present at Summits and also to present at webinars between Summit events. Scott helped to spread the word of the Summit Group and its existence by co-presenting at conferences and writing articles. Dr. Michael Millington from the National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Material gave the Summit Group its first digital home website and was pivotal in the conceptualization of how the community could be encouraged to grow in an unforced way. Dr. David Vandergoot from the Center of Management Essential and Hunter College lead the effort to create initial training modules in Vocational Rehabilitation Program Evaluation and has assisted in surveying Summit Group members regarding their learning needs. Dr. Darlene Groomes has formed the Summit Reading Groups which allows six Rehabilitation Professionals to study, discuss and apply content from a particular book over a period of generally five months. Dr. Steve Collins has further in expanding the body of knowledge in Vocational Rehabilitation Program evaluation by co-submitting a proposal that was accepted for the 38th Institute on Rehabilitation Issues that focused on proper methodology for Return on Investment and Economic Impact Studies. Many others have provided tireless support from the very beginning. The two core principles of this community of practice are that we are better off together than going it alone and that the best is yet to come.

Michael Shoemaker, M.A., CRC, LVRC, CPM
Vocational Rehabilitation Program Evaluator
Utah State Office of Rehabilitation
mtshoemaker@utah.gov