AEA Newsletter: August 2019

Message from the Executive Director

What Does Membership Engagement Look Like Under a Policy Governance Structure?

From Anisha Lewis, AEA Executive Director
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How much do you know about AEA’s governing structure? I realize that many of our members may not be familiar with Policy Governance, and what it means for AEA. This article seeks to provide some background information and address some concerns about Policy Governance as it pertains to the AEA Board, AEA staff, the role of AEA’s management company, and what it all means for member engagement.

Governance exists to make the wishes of the owners (AEA members) into organizational performance. Governance is a function of ownership, not management. AEA members are the “moral” owners of the organization and through the use of Policy Governance the elected board members are to reflect the wishes of the members for the organization. The board creates a set of governing documents by which to do this. These documents set the overall desired goals for the organization (Ends Policies), the guidelines within which the executive director runs AEA (Executive Limitations), the policies for the board’s operations (Board Management Policies), and the expectations for communication from the board and the ED (Board Management-Delegations Policies). This model addresses the board’s engagement in financial, programmatic and personnel matters, roles of officers and groups, reporting and evaluation, agendas, and other functions of the board job.

When AEA’s Board of Directors chose to shift to Policy Governance in 2008, a key goal was to move to a governance structure that would narrow the board’s focus on strategic direction to advance the organization, and less on operational functions. Simply put: the shift was to have the board focus on the “what” and allow staff to determine and manage the “how.”  This was a major shift, especially when AEA’s Board and membership had been so involved in past operations. Anytime there is a shift in policy and practice this means a change in culture. Ultimately this is a shift in our culture from being an operationally focused Board to a future-oriented strategic-direction focused board.

As with any organizational practice and culture change it takes time to develop all of the appropriate policies and practices to operate with fidelity and shift culture. Since adopting the Policy Governance model in 2008, the AEA Board has been working to adjust all of the policy documents and get board members trained on the new model. The adoption of Policy Governance was made long before the shift to a larger association management company. The reason to make this shift was to prepare AEA for the change in culture necessary to create the proper guidelines and expectations for staff to operate the organization and train the AEA Board to focus on the future and strategic direction.

The role of the management company is to facilitate AEA's operations, not to govern the association. We have worked hard since the move to SmithBucklin to not only create a healthy governing system but shift the culture among the board and membership to recognize the AEA staff as our own, not as belonging to the management company. Your AEA staff are deeply passionate about AEA’s mission, vision, and values; they work hard, daily, to ensure member’s wishes are translated into operations. We see ourselves as AEA staff first and foremost.

I, as your executive director, collaborate with the AEA Board, who sets policies, to determine budgets, financial goals, membership goals, conference structure, TIG structure, diverse, inclusive, and equitable representation, member engagement, and other operational activities.

In addition to staff, I also utilize Working Groups to support staff in areas of expertise they do not have, and offer a few more helping hands by providing a hands-on opportunity for member engagement. These groups are operational, and report to the executive director. The groups provide the ED with direction and member feedback, and most importantly, the industry specific knowledge needed to plan accordingly.

While I cannot attest to every member's experience of inclusion (or lack thereof), I can say that we are continually identifying new processes to improve the ways in which our members have a seat at the table. I am reviewing our pathways to working groups (as well as their scope of work) to ensure that access is equitable and that our groups have representation from our various constituents.

I am also aware of concerns about a diminished role of TIGs in setting conference content and representing member interests. Please note that conference sessions are selected by the TIGs, not the staff. We also have a conference advisory working group that provides feedback on site selections and shifts to the conference program.

Our conference has significantly increased in scope, resulting in an increased number of sessions. In order to keep the abstract submission rejection rates low, we had to reduce the amount of time for some sessions. This was done with a focus on our values of inclusion and access, to allow more people the opportunity to present. It is important to note that the higher the number of sessions, the higher number of meeting rooms needed, the more meeting space needed, the higher the cost of the facility rental. The higher the cost of facility rental, the higher the registration fee. AEA chooses to keep the conference accessible to all by not charging the fees needed to cover the actual production costs of the conference (cost benefit analysis shows that we should be charging $750 per attendee). Therefore, we have to make some difficult decisions that are not popular with everyone.

I look forward to hearing from you with ideas, concerns and best practices (send to on how to increase member engagement within the board defined and approved policy governance structure. Let’s have some fun with this and see if we can trail blaze a model for other associations who have members who want to be contribute under this structure! I trust that we can all find a productive way to have an inclusive forum to determine how we can collaborate for the good of AEA.


Are You Ready for Evaluation 2019?

A Message from the President

From Tessie Tzavaras Catsambas, AEA President
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As August comes to a close, the countdown for AEA 2019 begins! Many people have worked tirelessly to put together a fabulous program covering issues, methods, values, and key developments in the field of evaluation. Warm appreciation for Program Co-Chairs Melissa Chapman and Tom Archibald, TIG Program Chairs, AEA staff, and everyone who submitted a session. It is this hard work that builds a quality program.

Thinking together, challenging and supporting each other, learning, celebrating, and being connected is what makes the AEA Conference a great gathering every year, and this is no exception. In our plenaries, we will hear from excellent speakers who will stimulate and challenge us:

  • Melissa Chapman and I will welcome you all and set the tone.
  • Ron Heifetz, one of the leading thinkers in leadership development, will discuss how to use leadership skills in evaluation practice to facilitate change.
  • Michael Patton will host a session where you will hear calls for three different paths to the future of evaluation: Glenda Eoyang on the power of a systems lens, Khalil Bitar on a perspective from a younger evaluator with experience in conflict contexts, and Dominica McBride on the importance of authentic practice and inclusion in evaluation.
  • A panel of distinguished colleagues (Jennifer Green, Oumoul Ba Tall, Stafford Hood, Mel Mark, and Donna Podems) bring different experiences, but a shared sense of humor. Interviewed by Tom Archibald, they will reflect on our conference conversations and contribute their own thoughts on future of evaluation practice.

We are also excited to bring you 76 professional workshops and hundreds of excellent sessions where you can learn and share information. Just to highlight a few of these fascinating sessions, come explore how to:

  • Design inclusive randomized control trials (RCTs)
  • Build attention to environmental sustainability in every evaluation
  • Evaluate advocacy campaigns in low resource contexts in the global south through the use of well-tested tools
  • Shift the focus and process of evaluation in “Made in Africa” evaluation
  • Integrate evaluation to interventions in large-scale, complex social issues
  • Increase efficiency and open new doors through technology and Big Data
  • Design evaluations that ensure inclusion of all stakeholders

Above all, come stretch your own thinking and awareness of your own practice, network and support colleagues in their professional paths, and enjoy your time in the bosom of the welcoming Minnesota evaluation community. We'll see you there!


The Face of AEA 

Featuring Bernadette Wright 

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Name: Bernadette Wright

Affiliation: Meaningful Evidence, LLC

Degrees: PhD in public policy/program evaluation

Years in the Evaluation Field: 22 years (since 1997)

Joined AEA: First joined AEA in 1999


Why do you belong to AEA?

It’s important that evaluation has professional standards. I want to be part of an organization that can develop and educate evaluation clients about those standards. Also, I want to use findings and lessons learned from past evaluations. AEA is an organization that can spread that information, such as through the journals, conferences, webinars, and blog posts.

Why do you choose to work in the field of evaluation?

Being an evaluator lets me work with people and organizations that are making the world a better place, and to help them do more of that.

What's the most memorable or meaningful evaluation that you have been a part of?

For me, the most meaningful evaluations are evaluations that benefit people, especially those who aren’t always at the table. For example, when I interview people and I thank them for giving me information and they thank me for the opportunity to make their voices heard.

What advice would you give to those new to the field?

When you realize that you don’t like something about how evaluation is done, see if you can find a way to make it better. There’s always room for improvement.


Meet the New Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Fellows

From Zachary Grays, AEA Headquarters 

AEA is proud to announce, and welcome, the newly selected fellows for the 18th annual MSI fellowship. With an incredibly competitive pool of applicants, it goes without saying that narrowing down the impressive selected five fellows was difficult. Meet the 2019-2020 MSI fellows, pictured below. 

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You can get to know the newest fellows and read more on their backgrounds here. Please take the opportunity to introduce yourselves to them during Evaluation 2019 in Minneapolis, MN.

AEA would also like to thank Dr. Art Hernandez, MSI program director, for his continued leadership and exemplary guidance of the MSI program. Visit the AEA website to learn more about the MSI program and this year’s fellows.


Potent Presentations Initiative

10:2, Chunk and Chew! 

From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator 

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No, that’s not some sort of weird evaluation cheer we do at conferences. It is, however, a few of the names used for a teaching strategy based on learning science that we can easily apply to presentations.


Chunking and the 10:2 Rule

It’s very easy to describe, perhaps less so to put into action. There are three things to keep in mind to help utilize this rule:

  1. Think about the content of your presentation and the messages you want to get across to your audience. Then, break that content up into sections or chunks that you can present (teach!) in about 10 minutes.
  2. After those 10 minutes, change gears and give your audience a couple of minutes to process and reflect on what you just presented; they will then be ready for the next chunk of information.
  3. Subsequent chunks of information should be presented in the same manner and should be connected to previous chunks. This ensures the correct support the audience will need in making clear connections among the chunks of information to understand as a whole.

Why do this? There’s plenty of research on working memory and cognitive load theories that speaks to why this strategy works. Molecular biologist John Medina, author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School, noticed his students began tuning out approximately 10 minutes into a lecture. Medina has since won awards for his teaching using a lecture model based on the 10:2 rule. Medina organizes lectures into 10-minute segments around one core concept. Medina asserts that the concept must also be explainable in one minute. He presents the general idea first, and then the details. He says “the brain processes meaning before detail, and the brain likes hierarchy.”

Once those 10 minutes are up, he inserts some sort of emotional hook – an anecdote, story, or something else relevant to the content that will make students feel some sort of connection and gives their attention a sort of “jump start” to be ready for the next 10-minute segment.

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Forbes has a quick and easy read on why chunking works, including this conclusion:

“…learning will likely be most efficacious when:

1) It occurs in small chunks that can make it through the bottlenecks of short term memory and cognitive load and those chunks are designed to build upon each other.

2) Those series of chunks build upon each other by calling into use the material learned in earlier chunks, providing both repetition and connection opportunities.”

Bypassing the Bottleneck

Think about a funnel, wide at the top, and very narrow at the bottom. You have a volume of liquid that needs to be transferred from one bottle to another. If you pour too much too fast, the liquid will simply spill over the top of the funnel and onto the table only to be wasted. But, if you wait just a bit and give that liquid time to make its way through the narrow funnel spout and neck of the second bottle, everything will be fine and all of the liquid will be preserved.

10:2 is probably one of the most commonly known rules in teaching, but one that can be challenging to follow. When you’re on stage speaking about a topic on a specific area of interest or passion, 10 minutes can seem like just a minute or two. Remember that you are standing and speaking, being active, while your audience is sitting and listening, being passive. It’s not your attention that needs a boost ─ it’s theirs. Give them the opportunity to process, reflect, and recharge with 10:2 or Chunk and Chew.

Resources for Chunking Your Content

Pair 10:2, Chunk and Chew with our great, free resources on creating your presentation message, now available on our P2i Tools and Guidelines page.


We need your help!

  • Have you successfully used p2i tools or p2i principles in your presentations?
  • Do you have “before” and “after” slide examples you would be willing to share?
  • Do you have ideas for, or are you interested in writing a blog article on Potent Presentations?
  • Do you have an interest in sharing your tips for Potent Presentations through a brief video or webinar?

Please contact me at and let’s talk! I’m happy to help, offer guidance, or collaborate on any of these.


Coordinating and Convening New Evaluation Leader at GovDATAx

From Nick Hart, chair of the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF)


When the President signed the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act) in early 2019, momentum about evaluation policy reached a new height in the nation’s Capital. The bipartisan law created evaluation officer positions at large federal departments, and subsequent guidance from the White House issued this summer even encouraged smaller agencies to similarly establish the role.

The new evaluation officials emerge during a time of capacity building and growth for evidence-based policymaking in the country, yet more work is needed to ensure the success of emerging evaluation leaders and their staff. In August 2019, the American Evaluation Association asked Congress to identify resources to ensure evaluation officers are financially supported for success (see the letter here: AEA FY 2020 Appropriations Request), identifying the lack of resources as a potential risk.

Continuing the dialogue to support the new evaluation officers, AEA is partnering with the Data Coalition on October 30 to host a convening of federal evaluation officers at the GovDATAx Summit in Washington, DC. AEA’s support for GovDATAx is an opportunity to unite the public sector with the business, non-profit, and academic communities to discuss next steps for unleashing data for the public good, including applying evaluation throughout government as envisioned by the Evidence Act.

AEA members are invited to participate in the GovDATAx event to promote the new evaluation requirements in government, learn more about the relationship with other data users and communities, and to engage on evaluation policy. Interested AEA members can register at and use the promo code PARTNER35 at checkout to receive 35% off all tickets.


AEA Silent Auction to Benefit Traveling Presenters 

The Silent Auction is an annual event sponsored by the International Cross-Cultural Evaluation (ICCE) TIG held on Friday night of the AEA Evaluation 2019 conference. This year, the Silent Auction will be held on Friday, November 15, 2019, at 6:45 p.m. (please refer to the AEA conference program for the exact room/venue).

The money raised at the Silent Auction is used 100% to provide travel grants to first-time attendees from developing countries presenting at the AEA conference. The AEA Board matches the funds raised, doubling the pot for travel grants.

The items at the Silent Auction are donated by AEA conference attendees from around the world, evaluation associations/societies (AEA, AES, and CES), training institutes (e.g., The Evaluators' Institute, Claremont Evaluation Center), publishing companies, and authors of evaluation books. Additionally, your evaluation gurus donate an hour of their time ─ which you can also bid on to have impactful discussions with them.

The Silent Auction is an excellent networking event. You are encouraged to bring something to donate and also bid. It is a unique one-stop event. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to email


 AEA 2019 Election Announcement 

Thank you to those that took the time to vote for your 2020 AEA leadership. The race was close and we're certain the choice between all of the talent candidates was not an easy decision to make. It is with great pleasure that we share with you the outcome of the 2019 election for the American Evaluation Association Board of Directors. 

AEA President-Elect:

  • Thomas Grayson, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

AEA Treasurer-Elect:

  • Felicia Bohanon, Northern Illinois University

AEA Board Members-at-Large 2020-2022:

  • Karen Jackson, North Carolina A&T State University/Katalyst Innovative Consulting Services
  • Thomas Kelly, Hawaii Community Foundation
  • Libby Smith, ARC Evaluation at the University of Wisconsin-Stout

The election was open from June 26 through August 31 and received 1076 votes (16% response rate). For comparison, recent historical voting rates are noted below.

Recent Historical Voting Percentages:

  • 2018 – 15% of eligible members, 1073 votes cast
  • 2017 – 14.1% of eligible members, 1048 votes cast
  • 2016 – 15.2% of eligible members, 1131 votes cast
  • 2015 – 18.9% of eligible members, 1327 votes cast
  • 2014 – 16.4% of eligible members, 1173 votes cast

Congratulations to our newest AEA Board Directors and thank you again to those who took the time to vote. Stay tuned for more information on the new AEA Directors in upcoming newsletters.


Participate in the International Buddy Program During the Evaluation 2019 Conference

AEA welcomes all international evaluators to attend Evaluation 2019, AEA's Annual Conference, to be held in Minneapolis, on November 11-16, 2019! 

The International Program (IBP)

In line with its growing internationalization, AEA, in close collaboration with the International and Cross-Cultural Evaluation (ICCE) TIG, is glad to sponsor the International Buddy Program (IBP) for the seventh year in a row. 

If you are an international participant: Once you have registered for Evaluation 2019, and if you are interested in linking with an evaluator based in the U.S., please do the following:

  1. Fill out the IBP enrollment form
  2. E-mail it back to Michele Tarsilla (IBP Coordinator) by October 1, 2019
  3. If you are a U.S.-based evaluator: Once you have registered for Evaluation 2019, if you are interested in liaising with an international participant and you have attended a conference in the past, please fill out the form here and e-mail it to Michele Tarsilla (IBP Coordinator) at by October 1, 2019.

To learn more about the International Buddy Program, visit the information guide online.

We look forward to getting to know you at AEA 2019 and we hope that IBP will contribute to a terrific conference experience!


Call for Articles from Topical Interest Groups (TIGs)

Submit an Article or Update for an Upcoming AEA Newsletter 

Do you lead or participate in one of AEA's Topical Interest Groups (TIGs)? We want to hear from you and spotlight your work. Send an email to the AEA editor, Cady Stokes ( to share news, updates and articles for consideration in an upcoming AEA newsletter.

AEA Town Halls


The AEA Board of Directors would like the opportunity to engage more with AEA members and discuss a variety of strategic and visionaTownHalls.pngry topics with the membership. The virtual Town Hall approach allows a regular opportunity to pose strategic  questions and topics to the membership for input. Keep an eye out for upcoming Town Halls and make sure to take a look at some past webinars



AEA Professional Development Corner 

On-Demand Resources Available

From the AEA Education Team 

The Digital Knowledge Hub is an online platform featuring professional development opportunities for evaluators, by evaluators. Check out prerecorded eStudies now available for purchase.

You can also access past Coffee Breaks though the Coffee Break Archive.


Events of Interest

Events for AEA Members, Suggested by AEA Members

In this section, we spotlight events that may be of interest to the AEA community, as suggested by fellow members. Please note these events are not sponsored by AEA. If you would like to suggest an upcoming event, email Cady Stokes, AEA newsletter editor, at


Thank You to Our Longstanding Members

 AEA would like to recognize and thank some of its most longstanding members. Click here to view individuals who are celebrating 5+, 10+, 20+ and 30+ years with the association this month!


Welcome to Our New Members

 AEA would like to welcome those who have recently joined the association. Click here to view a list of AEA's newest members.

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