AEA Newsletter: January 2016

Message from the President - Looking Ahead in 2016

From John Gargani, 2016 AEA President

RS_gargani_photo_large-13RT.jpgA designer, a banker, and an evaluator walk into a bar. The designer begins sketching ideas for an innovative cocktail. She shows them to other patrons, gathers feedback, and makes revisions. She repeats the process several times, then hands a sketch to the bartender. “I’ll try this one,” she says. “It holds the most promise.”

The banker looks at the menu. He enters the price of each cocktail into a spreadsheet. Next to each price, he enters the value he places on drinking the cocktail. After a few calculations, he hails the bartender. “I’ll take this one,” he says. “It’s the best value for my money.”

The evaluator orders a beer.

The designer and the banker look at each other. No analysis? No evaluative rubric? No multitrait-multimethod matrix? No deep anthropological exploration of the cultural meaning of each cocktail? No consideration of the underlying complexity of the social context? How could an evaluator order a drink like this? They demand an explanation.

“Evaluation is more than an analytical tool that supports developmental thinking and decision making,” the evaluator begins. “It can empower communities. Ensure that democracies serve the will of the people. It can foster collaboration, harness collective impact, and improve lives. It does more than support others who are working to create positive change; it creates change.”

“Wow,” the others respond. “We didn’t know evaluation was useful. We thought it was some sort of esoteric, social science, academic mumbo jumbo. You’ve given us something to think about. But it still doesn’t explain your order.”

“Don’t you get it? It’s all about stakeholders. And beers stay colder than cocktails.”

Not much of a joke, I admit. The real punch line, the one I have felt in my gut like an actual punch, is that designers, bankers, and evaluators don’t talk to one another. There is a burgeoning field of program and product design that has set its sights on making the world a better place. There are impact investors, social entrepreneurs, and even traditional corporations using commerce to create positive social and environmental impacts. The methods, mindsets, and training of these professionals may differ from those of evaluators, but they, like us, conduct evaluations that matter.

However, when I talk with them, I find they typically don’t know what evaluation is, nor have they heard of AEA.

How can that be? We share a common purpose with these and many other professional communities—to make the world a better place. We can quibble about what constitutes better, who gets to decide, and which methods would best support our efforts. That sort of quibbling is a good thing; it’s knowledge generation. But we can’t quibble if we aren’t in the same room. And we aren’t.

This year, I, the board, staff, and the many volunteers at AEA will be working hard to get evaluators, designers, bankers, philanthropists, and many other socially minded professionals in the same room. Evaluation has a great deal to contribute to—and learn from—these other professions.

I can’t promise the jokes will get any better as the year passes, but I think you will find your experience with AEA one that brings you in contact with new people, ideas, and opportunities. I look forward to quibbling with you.


Diversity - Meet the New MSI Fellows 

From Zachary Grays, AEA Headquarters

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Among the many exciting highlights of Evaluation 2015 was the graduation of the 14th Minority Serving Institution (MSI) fellows. Congratulations to Tiffeny Jimenez, Julia Lechuga, Tamarah Moss, José A. Muñoz, and Elizabeth Williams! AEA commends your tremendous work and contributions to the legacy of the MSI program.

AEA is proud to announce and welcome the newly selected fellows for the 15th 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 2015-2016 MSI fellows!

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You can get to know the newest fellows and read more on their background in evaluation here! We look forward to working with them over the next year. Please take the opportunity to introduce yourselves to them during Summer Evaluation Institute 2016 and Evaluation 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.   

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. The call for 2016-2017 fellowship applications will be made in mid-July, so stay tuned!

Have a story to share for the AEA diversity column? Contact me at to learn how to share your diversity in evaluation stories. I would love to share your story!


Potent Presentations Initiative - p2i Is Rockin’ the Blogosphere!

From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator 

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Happy New Year! In recent newsletters, I’ve highlighted several of the p2i tools featured on the site. Today, I’d like to remind everyone that there is even more great advice, support, and resources available from AEA for polishing up your potent presentation. AEA365, our daily blog, has a long history of insightful articles on the Potent Presentations Initiative and p2i resources. With one click, you can find all of the posts tagged for Potent Presentations (p2i). Or, simply type “p2i” into the search box on AEA365 and they will appear.

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Here are some highlights of what you can learn from these posts:

While you’re there, look for Stephanie Evergreen’s posts on the “Fab Five Reboot,” where the information and presentation design diva shares real examples of slide redesigns from five of our most prominent presenters. (Hint: You’ll find these five posts among the others tagged for p2i, but you can also just type “reboot” into the search box on AEA365 and you’ll have instant access to just this set.)

And don’t forget to check out our Friends of p2i blogs for even more presentation design inspiration.

While we’re on the subject of blogging, we are actively looking for bloggers interested in contributing to a new p2i blog (coming soon!). Do you have some words of wisdom or helpful hints for fellow Potent Presenters? Have you found a p2i tool particularly helpful? Have you used a resource in a new or different way? What are your favorite go-to strategies for creating potent presentations? We would love to hear from you. Contact me at with thoughts and ideas.




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