AEA Newsletter: April 2016

Message from the Executive Director - The Power of Topical Interest Groups 

From Denise Roosendaal, AEA Executive Director 

Denise_Roosendaal_111811_144.jpgTopical Interest Groups (TIGs) are AEA’s unique way of making a larger organization retain its intimacy in order to create a welcoming and nurturing environment for all members. Currently, AEA has over 7,200 members, and 4,244 members have joined at least one TIG. Members are eligible to join up to five TIGs and all membership types are welcome to join TIGs. The largest TIG has over a thousand members and the smallest has a dozen. There are more than 55 TIGs in the AEA structure.  

TIGs are responsible for reviewing hundreds of conference session proposals that come through the submission process for each conference. This process is a heavy lift and requires many dedicated volunteers. TIGs also offer a variety of networking opportunities throughout the year. They are responsible for facilitating great relationships with colleagues in order to share knowledge, best practices, and future trends.

“Through AEA’s Topical Interest Groups, members convene around an area of interest and interact with others who share similar daily challenges. I have found that being active in a TIG allows me to increase my depth of knowledge in a specific area. TIGs shape the annual conference strands and review proposals for specific sessions to be presented.” – Beverly Parsons, AEA President 2014

“If you really want to know how things work in evaluation and want to work in an atmosphere of positive, constructive intellectual energy, the TIGs are the place to be. You will learn what's going on from colleagues working in the same area. You may even find a job this way because you will meet people who (1) have invaluable knowledge and skills; (2) write successful proposals; and/or (3) are in a position to hire you. In any case, TIGs provide a sense of intellectual and social community, supporting your evaluative journey throughout your career.” – David Fetterman

However, based on exit survey information, 70 percent of those individuals who do not renew their membership never joined a TIG. In addition, the AEA Membership Survey indicates that, according to the over 1,700 respondents, TIGs are the third most highly used resource offered by AEA (behind AEA’s American Journal of Evaluation [82.8%] and the AEA Guiding Principles [78.9%]). That same report showed that 20.5 percent of the respondents have not interacted with TIGs at all. We would like to encourage more members to take advantage of this powerful membership benefit.

TIGs are also a tool for defining an emerging discipline or area of focus within evaluation. In 2015, four new TIGs were formed reflecting the interest in new aspects of evaluation, including:

  • Design and Analysis of Experiments
  • Military and Veteran Evaluation
  • Latino/a Responsive Evaluation Discourse
  • Democracy and Governance 

 TIGs have also taken on a strategic priority within AEA as we look to determine the most flexible structure for taking advantage of all that TIGs have to offer and provide the proper resources to encourage cross-collaboration and program development for members. TIG leaders and AEA management continue to examine ways to collaborate and organize in order to enhance the TIG experience and potential.

Only 58 percent of members take full advantage of TIG membership. For those who are not involved in TIGs, joining is easy. Simply go to your member profile, click on the navigation bar for “Members Only,” and select “Update TIG selections.” There is no time commitment and you can change TIG memberships as often as you like. Not sure about which one to join?  Visit the individuals TIG websites and talk with their leadership. Or visit their business meetings or social events for TIGs at the Evaluation 2016 conference in Atlanta this fall. Questions about joining TIGs? Email Zachary Grays, who will be happy to help you:   

If you have ideas on ways to encourage your fellow evaluators to enjoy the benefits of joining a TIG, please let me know:

As always, it is a pleasure serving the AEA community.


Potent Presentations Initiative - Time for Spring Cleaning!

From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator 

Sheila Robinson-RS 2.pngI love throwing open the windows, getting fresh air, and cleaning out the spaces in my home that haven’t seen the light of day in ages. It’s also a great time to grab the laptop, step onto the back deck, and do a little electronic spring cleaning. 

Some years ago, as I started reading about better slide design, I started cleaning up my presentation slides of excess text, bullet points, clip art, and distracting pre-made templates. One of my favorite bloggers, marketing expert Seth Godin, has been writing about Powerpoint slide design, and specifically about bad Powerpoint, for more than 10 years (wish I could say I was reading this stuff 10 years ago!). 

A great way to get inspiration for cleaning up your slides is to check out the Fab Five Reboot, a p2i project led by Stephanie Evergreen. With the cooperation of five of AEA’s Dynamic Dozen presenters, Stephanie redesigned five slides from actual presentations each of them delivered. Get some ideas from studying the reboots, and then familiarize yourself with p2i’s Slide Design Guidelines. 

p21 April 2016 - RS.pngA major component of slide design, of course, is the use of visuals. There are plenty of great online sources for free and inexpensive visuals, such as photographs and icons for your slides. In fact, I recently wrote about fantastically free photos sites for your projects on our AEA365 blog. My three favorite sites for free and inexpensive icons are Iconfinder, Iconarchive, and Noun Project. You can even get creative and make your own icons using simple shapes and grouping them. 

As always, when using any graphics or images found online, check for licensing and copyright restrictions. 

Insider trick: Don’t be afraid to manipulate images (as long as this complies with any licensing restrictions). Crop images or recolor them for use on different slides. 

New p2i blog!

The p2i blog will be up and running soon! Have you delivered a Potent Presentation? Have you successfully used a p2i resource to craft a presentation? Have you used other helpful resources that informed your message, design, or delivery? Interested in contributing to the p2i blog? Email me at with your ideas. 

Pardon our dust…

We are still in the process of updating and migrating the p2i site. We are moving a few things around, and doing some tidying up. Don’t worry – all of your favorite p2i resources will still be available! Stay tuned for news and updates.

Cartoon by Chris Lysy,  


International Policy Update - AEA Appoints Nicky Bowman to New Global Network EvalIndigenous 

From Mike Hendricks, AEA Representative to the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), with contributions from Jim Rugh, EvalPartners Co-Coordinator


     Jim Rugh 2010.01.16.JPG

AEA President John Gargani has just appointed Dr. Nicole (Nicky) Bowman to be AEA’s representative to the brand-new EvalPartners network EvalIndigenous. The stated goal of EvalIndigenous is to “recognize the different world views and strengths of indigenous evaluation practices in order to better allow indigenous peoples to lead and contribute to global evaluation practice and endeavors.”

Nicole Bowman.pngJohn couldn’t possibly have made a better appointment, since Nicky has chaired for several years AEA’s Topical Interest Group (TIG) on Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation. President and founder of Bowman Performance Consulting, Nicky herself is a Mohican/Munsee Native American so, to her, the issues involved in EvalIndigenous are more than simply a professional interest. Both in her consulting firm and in her evaluation post at the University of Wisconsin, Nicky has worked extensively over the past two decades with both tribal and non-tribal agencies to
develop ways to work
with people and not on them.  

As you might imagine, Nicky is very active in Native American organizations. She is a member of the National Congress of American Indians, American Indigenous Research Association, National Indian Education Association, Tribal Education Departments National Assembly, and Native Research Network, and she is a frequent trainer for various tribal projects.

Nicky also is active academically and has served on various AEA committees and task forces for several years. She has published more than a dozen articles and reports on evaluation in indigenous communities and has given many dozens of presentations and keynote addresses on the topic. Nicky has also reviewed manuscripts for the American Journal of Evaluation, New Directions in Evaluation, Journal of Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation, Journal of American Indian Education, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and she has reviewed grants for the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Justice, and Transportation and for the National Science Foundation.

We congratulate Nicky on her appointment to EvalIndigenous, and we thank her in advance for her service to AEA.


EVALSDGs Helps Ensure Evaluability of U.N. Sustainable Development Goals 

From Thomas A. Schwandt, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Thomas Schwandt.JPGIn a historic U.N. summit in September 2015, world leaders adopted the resolution “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. Governments throughout the world are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks to achieve the 17 goals, and countries have the primary responsibility for follow-up and review of the progress made in implementing the SDGs.

Eval SDGs logo.jpgEVALSDGs is one of the initiatives established by EvalPartners and is aligned with the recently adopted Global Evaluation Agenda 2016-2020. It is a loosely coupled network of interested and skilled policy makers, institutions, and practitioners who advocate for the evaluability of the performance indicators of the 17 SDGs and support processes to integrate evaluation into national and regional review systems. I serve as AEA’s representative to EVALSDGs. Other VOPEs around the world have been encouraged by the IOCE to nominate their own representatives. There are no formal membership requirements to join the network, and it is largely self-organizing. The network is led by two chairs, Colin Kirk, director of the UNICEF Evaluation Office, and Dorothy Lucks, executive director of SDF Global, and two vice-chairs, Ada Ocampo, senior evaluation specialist at UNICEF, and Kassem El-Saddick, an independent
evaluation consultant. Individuals and institutions interested in joining the network should send an
email to
Ada Ocampo and Dorothy Lucks. 

To move our advocacy work forward, members of the network have sorted out four working groups, each in various stages of development. One is focused on knowledge platforms (using technologies to facilitate dialogue, advocacy, and knowledge generation in relation to evaluation and the SDGs). A second group will assist in strengthening the institutional capacities of VOPEs and individual evaluators to conduct evaluations in support of national SDG implementation and review processes. A third group will foster inter-linkages and interaction between initiatives to strengthen evaluation and implement and review the SDGs, and a fourth group will develop position papers/advocacy briefs. These briefs are broadly directed at what Cronbach and colleagues called the “policy-shaping community” – that is, those decision makers, parliamentarians, knowledgeable citizens, the media, and advocacy groups influential in promoting evaluation as vital to the achievement of the SDGs. The first advocacy brief provides an overview of the added value of evaluation and was prepared under the auspices of the International Institute for Environment and Development. The brief can be found under the Briefings heading on their website


Walking the Talk with Amanda Sutter 

From Amanda Sutter, the evaluation and outcomes manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay and the co-chair of the Greater Boston Evaluation Network.

Amanda Sutter - RS.jpgEvaluation is a great many things. The beauty of being an evaluator is that you get to wear many hats and it is never boring. I love the diverse roles that I can play, from the relational to the technical. I love that some days are spent head-deep in data or report writing or DataViz, and that others are spent facilitating sessions to plan with the data, or presenting to bigwigs, or just being a willing ear for tired program staff. As a young evaluator, AEA has been instrumental as my professional home in helping me build my skills to support the causes I care about and to get me where I am in my career.

There are two aspects of AEA’s values that particularly speak to me and my work. My passion lies in making sure data is used for continuous improvement and that staff (and participants!) are included in the process to ensure the data actually leads to meaningful change. From Innovation Network’s Evaluation Theory Tree, it seems that use-focused “branches” of evaluation are growing and that means evaluators can be true partners with practitioners to serve our participants. When a goal is the enhancement of the public good, it has to be about more than just measuring impact, but increasing it. Having previously worked as an external consultant, it was this desire to bridge data and practice that pushed me to the internal evaluation side to help more directly increase positive outcomes for children and youth in Boston. To me, evaluation is really about strategy and must be integrated throughout the entire program. This is not usually the reality in the research world, so I’m proud that AEA makes utilization and improvement a main part of its beliefs.

On a related note, central to my approach to life is to be a capacity builder. I am constantly sharing resources and ideas. I always crave to know more. I never want to be indispensable and preferably will always work myself out of business. I want those I work with not only to get great service, but also to be more capable to do the work without me the next time. It’s about being part teacher, part facilitator, part someone who loves learning – again, the assorted personalities of evaluators. For initiatives to be sustainable and more likely to have impact, this is absolutely necessary, but also, I feel I have to pay it forward. Capacity building isn’t explicit in AEA’s values, but it’s what underpins being a professional, learning community and is included in the principles of building understanding of evaluation and being welcoming of all. I have been so humbled by the willingness of AEA members to share their knowledge and skills through blogs, podcasts, conferences, and more. It is this basic value that drove me to partner with peers in Boston to develop our local AEA-affiliated evaluation network. There is always more to learn and knowledge must be shared (and used – notice a theme?). I have learned so much from this group and am grateful that AEA has provided this kind of space for learning and meeting “my people.”

Despite the years I’ve already worked in this field, I feel as though I’m just getting started. There’s a lot of work to do to make sure our data-crazed culture makes smart choices about what’s collected, that all stakeholders have a voice, and that the information actually is used to make a difference, not just in a report that sits on a shelf somewhere. But I believe a strong foundation has been laid and we have the tools to get where we want to be.

Here’s to the journey. We’re in it together.


Call for Applications: AEA Graduate Education Diversity Internship Program (GEDI) 

DEADLINE: Monday, June 20, 2016 

The American Evaluation Association welcomes applications for its Graduate Education Diversity Internship Program that provides paid internship and training opportunities during the academic year. The GEDI program works to engage and support students from groups traditionally under-represented in the field of evaluation. The goals of the GEDI Program are to:

  • Expand the pool of graduate students of color and from other under-represented groups who have extended their research capacities to evaluation.
  • Stimulate evaluation thinking concerning under-represented communities and culturally responsive evaluation.
  • Deepen the evaluation profession's capacity to work in racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse settings.

Interns may come from a variety of disciplines, including public health, education, political science, anthropology, psychology, sociology, social work, and the natural sciences. Their commonality is a strong background in research skills, an interest in extending their capacities to the field of evaluation, and a commitment to thinking deeply about culturally responsive evaluation practice.

The Internship: Building on the training content described below, the interns work the equivalent of approximately two days per week at an internship site near their home institutions from approximately September 1 to July 1. The interns may work on a single evaluation project or multiple projects at the site, but all internship work is focused on building skills and confidence in real-world evaluation practices. Interns receive a stipend of $8,000 in recognition of their internship work based on completion of the internship and satisfactory finalization of program requirements, including any deliverables due to the host agency, progress reports, and reflections on the internship experience.

Training and Networking Components: It is assumed that students come to the program with basic qualitative and quantitative research skills. The GEDI Program then works to extend those skills to evaluation through multiple activities:

Fall Seminar. A five-day intensive seminar, held in Claremont, California, provides an orientation that expands the student's knowledge and understanding of critical issues in evaluation, including thinking about building evaluation capacities to work across cultures and diverse groups. The interns complete a self-assessment in the fall, clarifying their own goals during program participation.

AEA Annual Conference. Interns will spend a week at the American Evaluation Association annual conference. While there, they attend  (a) pre-conference workshops selected to fill gaps in their knowledge and skills, (b) conference sessions exploring the breadth and depth of the field, and (c) multiple networking events to connect them with senior colleagues. The interns also conduct a small-service learning project in the form of an evaluation of one component of the conference.

Winter Seminar. A three-day seminar, held in January or February, provides the students with additional training, coaching on their evaluation projects, and panel discussions with evaluation practitioners working in a range of contexts.

Evaluation Project. Interns will have the opportunity to provide support to an agency's evaluation activities in close proximity to their graduate institution. Interns will provide three updates on their evaluation project activities as part of the internship program, describing and reflecting on the application of their evaluation knowledge to the actual project activities.

Monthly Webinars. The students gather each month for a two-hour webinar to check in on evaluation projects and site placements, add to existing skill-sets, and learn from invited guest speakers.

AEA/CDC Summer Evaluation Institute. The program ends with attendance at the Summer Evaluation Institute held in Atlanta each June. There, students once again connect and finalize project reporting, attend training workshops, and participate in a graduation ceremony.

Specific Support Mechanisms: Interns are supported by colleagues at school, at their site placements, and within the sponsoring association:

An Academic Advisor. The academic advisor at the Intern's home institution supports and coordinates coursework and other activities, while helping to integrate the internship program with the student's plan of study.

A Sponsoring Agency. Students generally are matched with sponsoring agencies near their graduate institution that provide the opportunity to perform evaluation activities compatible with students' research interests and skills. 

Supervising Mentor. A colleague at the host site with evaluation experience acts as a guide and mentor throughout the program.

GEDI Program Leadership. GEDI Program Director and AEA President (2015) Dr. Stewart Donaldson is an experienced evaluator. Working with a cadre of colleagues, he, and Co-Director Dr. Ashaki M. Jackson oversee the curriculum and site placements. Throughout the internship the leadership are available to guide, advise, and support the interns in achieving their professional goals and the goals of the program.

AEA Staff Support. AEA staff provides logistical support throughout the internship. Post-internship, they work to connect program graduates with opportunities for leadership, participation, and networking within the association.

Online Community. The GEDI cohort uses an online community space for checking in, turning in updates, asking questions, and informal networking.

Student Benefits: Interns receive support from advisors and mentors, quality training focused on evaluation, real-world work experience, registration waivers and guidance at two professional evaluation conferences, and multiple opportunities for professional networking. In recognition of the time involved in the program (approximately two days per week), each intern also receives a stipend and is reimbursed for major travel expenses related to the program (airfare and shared hotel specifically), but is responsible for travel incidentals (to and from home/airport, to/from hotels, meals not taken together, etc.).

Eligibility: We seek students who are not already enrolled in an evaluation program/specialization or pursuing an evaluation degree who:

  • Are enrolled in a masters or doctoral-level program in the United States and have completed the equivalent of one full year of graduate level coursework;
  • Are residing in the United States;
  • Have already been exposed to research methods and substantive issues in their field of expertise;
  • Demonstrate via written essays the relevance of evaluation training to their career plans and their commitment to culturally responsive practice;
  • Are eligible to work for pay in the United States outside of an academic environment (non-U.S. citizens will be asked to provide documentation of current eligibility); and
  • Have support from his/her academic advisor.

Criteria for Selection: The interns will be selected based on their completed applications, materials provided, and subsequent finalist interviews focusing on:

  • Their thinking around and commitment to culturally responsive evaluation practice;
  • The alignment between their skills, aspirations, locale, and internship site placement needs;
  • The quality of their academic, extracurricular, and personal experiences as preparation for GEDI; and
  • Their capacity to carry out and complete the program, including support from an academic advisor

To applyDownload the GEDI Application and return all requested materials via email as described on that document on or before Monday, June 20, 2016. Please note that it may take a few weeks to compile the requested information and thus we recommend that you begin as soon as possible before the deadline.

Questions: We recommend beginning by reviewing our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. Should you have further questions about the program, email with questions about the program.

More about the program: Go to the GEDI homepage

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