AEA Newsletter: January 2019

Message from the President

Starting a Dialogue in 2019

From Tessie Catsambas, AEA President 

Happy New Year, AEA! I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to serve as AEA president this year. I feel fortunate to follow in the steps of Leslie Goodyear, AEA past president, who saw to fruition policy updates, received important task force products, and led a great conference in Cleveland full of rich conversations, sharing and learning. A round of applause for Leslie’s leadership.

A special thanks also to Kathy Newcomer, who served on the AEA Board of Directors in 2018 as past president, and brought her wisdom, history and leadership in AEA strategic positioning in evaluation policy, and deepened our conversations around race and class issues.

In addition to Kathy Newcomer, we are saying goodbye to three outgoing AEA board members: Tom Chapel, Huilan, Krenn and Dominica McBride. Thank you, Kathy, Tom, Huilan, and Dominica for your contributions and service over the last three years on the board of directors.

I feel grateful to be working with an amazing board of elected officers who are dedicated to serving AEA members, implementing AEA policies, and promoting AEA’s mission, vision and values. In 2018, under the board’s watchful eye, we received reports from three task forces: Diversity, Membership Engagement, and Leadership; Professionalization; and Guiding Principles. Their recommendations have been folded into the work of our staff, assisted by working groups as needed under the leadership of Anisha Lewis, AEA executive director. We also approved a full set of board policies, setting us up for a strong 2019. This year, we welcome new board members Lisa Aponto-Soto, Hacife Cakici, and Wanda Casillas.

Continuing this great work, in 2019 the board is well-prepared to step into its role of looking at the future, creating a learning agenda, and working to position AEA in the best way to benefit from future opportunities and address future challenges.

To benefit from all the knowledge and ideas in our community, we will continue our regular Town Hall meetings, actively liaise with members in different evaluation communities of AEA, our TIGs, our affiliates, and sister evaluation associations of other countries and regions. This year’s conference theme will also contribute to our collective learning about how best to create and embrace the future of the evaluation profession.

The theme for Evaluation 2019 is Paths to the Future of Evaluation: Contribution - Leadership -  Renewal. The event will take place in November in Minneapolis. It is an invitation for a dialogue among all AEA members—evaluators, evaluation users, instructors and students of evaluation, evaluation scholars and thought leaders—on the evaluation profession’s path forward. Building the future of the evaluation practice begins with an assessment and appreciation of the past and present contribution of evaluation to society and a consideration of the current societal issues where we need to bring leadership. We then look ahead to see how we can evolve for the renewal of our profession, embracing voices of new evaluators and carving a path to the future of evaluation.

I hope this theme will inspire us to employ an appreciative lens to explore such questions as:

  • What frameworks, experiences, methods and practices best prepare us to address key issues of our time? In what way do our evaluations help our stakeholders understand the impact of these key issues locally, in every evaluation we undertake?
  • How do we innovate and adapt our thinking, methods and practices to ensure our evaluations address the important societal challenges of today, and enable our communities to have informed and productive conversations?
  • How do we ensure our evaluation practices leave no one behind? How do we promote equity, diversity and the protection of human rights for all involved and affected by our evaluations?
  • How do we bring leadership competence to our evaluations? How do we prepare ourselves to be credible evaluators as we step into the controversial issues in our society or manage the anxiety our presence may stir? How do we stay independent and impartial, think calmly and creatively, and act methodically and insightfully? How do we consult all sides, include members of marginalized communities? How do we manage an evaluation that frames things systematically and provides credible answers to the most important questions?

I look forward the conversations we will have all year, and to a great conference that will illuminate different, exciting paths to the future. Let’s have bold, rich session proposals come March, and an engaging program for Evaluation 2019!

Here’s to a great year ahead. I look forward to working together, learning from each other, and building the paths to the future of evaluation together. See you all in Minneapolis this November.


AEA Members in the Spotlight

Featuring Norma Martínez-Rubin, Newly Elected to Pinole City Council

In late 2018, AEA member Norma Martínez-Rubin was elected to city council in her town of Pinole, California. We caught up with Norma to learn more about her experience running for the first time, how she anticipates evaluative thinking will help her in this new role, and advice for others who may be interested in becoming actively involved in their own communities. 

When did you first decide to run for this position? Have you always been actively involved in local government?  

I decided to run for city council about a month from the filing deadline last August (2018). I had been serving on my city’s planning commission for nine years. An opportunity to run for elected office came up when one of the incumbents termed out. 

How did your background in evaluation help you in your election campaign efforts?

My campaign messaging had to be about inclusiveness and issues pertinent to people of different backgrounds and ages in my city. I had to keep in mind the changing demographics and the families that have invested their lives in Pinole, my adopted hometown, for generations. Not all residents are interested or available to be involved in civic matters, even though their lives may be affected as a consequence of decisions their elected officials make. 

As a candidate, going door-to-door introducing myself in multiple voting districts was an opportunity to hear what sparked individuals’ interests, what they were indifferent about, and what they expected of their elected officials. As an evaluator, one has to remain aware of the roles different people and organized groups play in matters that are up for discussion or being assessed for value. One has to discern valid and invalid information sources. One relies on the ability to reason with some sense of objectivity. As one who leans to qualitative data, the stories and anecdotes shared by people during my campaign was information to be compared to what is gathered by city staff and consultants. They are hired to do more thorough analyses required when public funding and multiple community interests are at stake. 

What are some of your goals as city council member? How will evaluative thinking help you in this role?

I look forward to fostering an atmosphere of collegiality among the council on which I serve, advocating for equity in service delivery relative to available resources, and supporting my city’s solvency and the sustainability of public infrastructure and safety services. Evaluative thinking will help me understand the history of issues in Pinole, be open to input from various sources, and strive to consider intended and unintended consequences. 

What is the importance and value of having an evaluator hold a position such as this? 

Community residents ought to have elected officials who listen to their concerns and interests from a perspective that is sensible, reasonable, and equitable. An evaluator who abides by ethical principles and recognizes process and systems thinking is keenly aware of that. 

An evaluator is also interested in identifying mid-term and long-term consequences to decision making —this may be unpopular when the public wants immediate solutions. The ability to be analytical while remaining practical and flexible is necessary. One gets to work alongside personnel hired to implement the policies elected officials create. Those staff members’ expertise is also important such that the business of the people (i.e., what one signs up to represent) is addressed in the midst of multiple deadlines and legal requirements in place prior to being elected. 

Any advice for other evaluators who may be thinking of becoming more actively involved in their own communities? 

Serving as an appointed or elected official can be an extension of the analytical, systems-oriented, and community responsive approaches that highlight the work an evaluator does. Take the time to recommit to why you want to serve the public. Doing so requires continuously focusing on that very thing to not be distracted by illusions of power and authority.

The Face of AEA

Featuring Keith A. Herzog

Keith A. Herzog
Affiliation: Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute
Degrees: B.A. in political science, English literature, and business administration; Master’s of Public Policy and Administration (Candidate)
Years in the Evaluation Field: 14
Joined AEA: 2016

Why do you belong to AEA?

The American Evaluation Association (AEA) serves as a professional “home base” and a collaborative and welcoming community of practice. AEA membership has afforded me invaluable opportunities to engage and learn from colleagues from across the United States (and beyond!), to build rewarding and fruitful collaborations, and to develop a strong professional network.

What is the most memorable or meaningful evaluation you have been a part of?

As an evaluator within the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) consortium, funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health, I am thrilled to have a range of opportunities through the NCATS Common Metrics initiative. One great example is utilizing the Results-Based Accountability (or RBA) framework to develop, implement, monitor, and continuously improve “Turn the Curve” plans intended to inform both local and national strategic management initiatives. As described in a recent AEA365 blog authored with colleagues Dr. Kristi Holmes and Jennifer Cooper, RBA empowers teams composed of evaluators, administrators, domain experts, and community partners to identify meaningful and actionable performance metrics through a process that encourages active and sustained participation by these key stakeholders.

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

I would strongly encourage new evaluators to attend the annual AEA conference. Jump in with both feet: attend as many sessions as possible (including a couple outside of your primary interest area) and present your work early and often. The conference is an unparalleled opportunity to explore all that the evaluation field has to offer, to participate in ongoing conversations about future directions for the field, and to share your ideas and research with colleagues in a supportive and highly collaborative setting. I also recommend that all new evaluators join multiple AEA Topical Interest Groups (or TIGs). Consider joining one TIG closely related to your primary professional and/or research interests and a second TIG that presents an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and build your evaluation toolkit and professional network. TIGs are the heart and soul of AEA, so don’t miss these opportunities to engage with these valuable communities of practice throughout the year!

The Face of AEA features the association's members - sharing their background, why they joined and what some of their most memorable experiences have been. Know someone who should be interviewed? Email the AEA editor, Kristin Fields, at

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, Kristin Fields ( to share news, updates and articles for consideration in an upcoming AEA newsletter.

Policy Watch

The Dawn of a New Era for Federal Evaluation

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

093_0571_BPC_Headshots_December_2017-WEB-e1517325533459.jpgBig reforms for federal evaluation policy are coming over the next several years, thanks to a new law enacted in early 2019. The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act was finally passed by Congress with bipartisan support in late December, then signed by the president several weeks later.

The new law, championed by then-Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), represents a milestone moment for evidence-based policy in the country, setting the stage for improvements to privacy protections and data accessibility, but also for federal evaluation policy. 

Here’s what the new law means for evaluation policy:

  1. The law requires the largest federal agencies to establish evaluation officers. Some agencies already have the positions, but many do not. When implemented, evaluation will be recognized among senior leadership throughout government, which is promising for both the production and eventual use of evaluation.
  2. The law instructs agencies to establish written evaluation policies and develop annual evaluation plans. These policies will help assure evaluations adhere to principles and practices widely supported by the evaluation community, while the plans will ensure that agencies are accountable for actively engaging in evaluation activities.
  3. The law orders the Office of Personnel Management to develop plans for recognizing evaluators with an occupational series in government, as is already done with statisticians and economists.
  4. The law directs agencies to begin the process of developing publicly available learning agendas. These devises serve as strategic plans for research and evaluation that will help identify data needs for priority research questions.
  5. The law requires the Office of Management and Budget to inventory the resources available in agencies that support evidence-based policymaking. In practice, the inventory will likely lead to the first comprehensive assessment of the amount of funding allocated for evaluation activities in government since the 1970s.

While the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act will not address all of the capacity and implementation issues evaluators face in federal agencies, the new law will set in motion major reforms that recognize and increasingly institutionalize evaluation activities across the federal government. Effective implementation of this promising strategy will likely require participation from the evaluation community to hold agencies accountable moving forward, ensuring that the vision of more evaluation that is useful for decision-making can be realized.


International Evaluation 

An Update from the IOCE Professionalization Task Force

From Mishkah Jakoet, International and Cross Cultural Evaluation (ICCE) Topical Interest Group (TIG) Chair

Mishkah.jpgThe International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE) established a Professionalization Task Force in 2015, following the Second Global Evaluation Forum in Nepal. This task force established professionalization as a “gradual, long-term and context-dependent process”. You can read more here about the Professionalization Task Force.

Compiled by Evalpartners, the International Evaluation Partnership Initiative and the Toolkit Task Force, the VOPE[1] toolkit is a useful (but not exhaustive) collection of content to guide the establishment and management of VOPEs. A new section on Professionalization of Evaluation has been developed by the Professionalization Task Force, and is available in English, French and Spanish.

The Professionalization Task Force needs your help!

We are looking for volunteers to develop five short texts (two to three pages) for the following sub-sections:

Each of these sections will guide readers on how to use the documents available in each section. We also request that volunteers help us identify gaps in information and suggest a strategy to fill those gaps.

If you are interested in volunteering and for more information, please contact us by January 28, 2019:

Benoit Gauthier:
Donna Podems:  

[1] Voluntary Organisation of Professional Evaluators


Potent Presentations Initiative

Writing a Winning Conference Proposal

From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator 

Sheila Robinson.jpg

AEA members often think of the period between late January and mid-March as Conference Proposal Writing Season

OK, maybe I made that up, but still, it’s a time when members are thinking about their work, having conversations with potential collaborators, and considering what they might want to present at the annual conference, Evaluation 2019

This month’s article is not about presentations, per se, but yet it is. You know that total kitchen remodel you’ve dreamed of?  With the quartz counter tops, modern appliances and gorgeous new cabinets? Well, it won’t mean much if your home wasn’t built on a solid foundation with a strong frame. All that wood and concrete may not be pretty or exciting, but it does the critical work of supporting your new kitchen and keeping it stable and usable. 

The same goes for your conference proposal. It’s the foundation of your presentations, and no Potent Presentation Initiative (p2i) tool or guideline can rescue a proposal that hasn’t been accepted. Proposal acceptance is not a sure thing. Even if you’ve written a good paper, have a useful skill to demonstrate, or can show stellar results from an innovative evaluation, you must still be able to communicate all of that to proposal reviewers in order to be able to present at the conference. 

These tips are not just for Evaluation 2019, but for any conference. Most emerged from many years of reviewing conference proposals for AEA and other professional organizations. While it seems that some of these should go without saying, unfortunately I can tell you that from experience, they cannot. 

  1. p2i January.jpgStart early. Deadlines have a way of creeping up and even though a proposal might not be a great amount of writing, you’ll want time to think it through, let it sit a bit, revise, etc.
  2. Consider which work, projects, skills, etc. you want to share. What are you most excited about? More importantly, why are you most excited about this work? This is what you will need to share in a proposal.
  3. Read through the session types on the conference website. Choose the type of session you would like to present and one that aligns well with the work you want to present. Did you write a paper, or do you want to model a skill for an audience? Do you have an idea that you would like others to spend time discussing and contribute to? Do you enjoy designing research posters? What might a conference audience want to learn from you?
  4. Read the request for proposals (RFP) carefully and follow the rules. Look for additional guiding information in the proposal form itself. Many fields have descriptors of what information belongs in each. Reviewers do not look favorably on proposals that violate word count or other posted guidelines. 

Stay tuned! Next month I’ll share even more tips!

p2i Needs 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. 


Contribute to the Future of Evaluation

Submit an Evaluation 2019 Proposal Today!

The American Evaluation Association (AEA) is now accepting session proposal submissions for Evaluation 2019! Taking place November 11 – 16 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Evaluation 2019 is AEA’s annual conference that focuses on best practices and trends impacting the field of evaluation. 

Submit your proposal on a topic following one of these presentation types: panel discussions, expert lectures, roundtables, skill-building workshops, ignite sessions, or birds of a feather gatherings. We are looking for both creative thinking and variety in your submissions. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to present in front of a global audience of more than 3,000 colleagues! All submissions are due March 18, 2019.


Apply for AEA Volunteer Opportunities

AEA is excited to invite applications for various upcoming volunteer opportunities as we enter 2019. AEA values member input and engagement, relying upon their guidance and knowledge about the field in the development of programs for our membership. AEA Executive Director, Anisha Lewis, will select members for these Working Groups with an eye toward diversity, service to AEA, and overall expertise. 

The following Working Groups will commence their work in early 2019. AEA members interested in participating in these Working Groups must submit their applications here no later than Friday, February 8, 2019. 


Charge: To select recipients for the official AEA awards.


Charge: To recruit member applicants for submission to the Elections Working Group to support them in creating an annual election slate.


Charge: To create a slate of potential candidates for the AEA annual election.


Charge: To develop and implement ways in which the AEA Competencies can be incorporated into AEA’s programming and initiatives.  

Guiding Principles

Charge: To develop and implement ways in which the AEA Guiding Principles can be incorporated into AEA’s programming and initiatives. 


Catch Up On AEA Town Halls 

TownHalls (1).pngDid you miss any AEA Town Hall meetings? You can now access them on AEA’s website here. This year's topics include a review of the AEA Guiding Principles, issues and opportunities confronting the field of evaluation and new AEA evaluator competencies. 

Access AEA Town Hall recordings here.




AEA Professional Development Corner 

On-Demand Resources Available, Plus Live eStudies Through February 2019

From the AEA Education Team 

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

Evaluation 2018 Presidential Strand
The 2018 Presidential Strand Plenaries feature in-depth keynote presentations that focus on the theme of Evaluation 2018: Speaking Truth to Power. These sessions have been organized by AEA President Leslie Goodyear and her Presidential Strand program committee to create a lively and critical conversation about the role of evaluators and evaluation in Speaking Truth to Power.

Save the date for this upcoming live eStudy course.

eStudy 098: Working with Assumptions to Unravel the Tangle of Complexity, Values, Cultural Responsiveness

February 11, at 12-1:30 p.m. ET | Presented by Jonathan Morell, Ph.D. Principal, 4.669 Evaluation and Planning/Editor, Evaluation and Program Planning; Apollo M. Nkwake, CE. Ph.D. International Technical Advisor, Monitoring and Evaluation, Education Development Center; Katrina L. Bledsoe, Ph.D. Research Scientist, Education Development Center/Principal Consultant Katrina Bledsoe Consulting

It is impossible for evaluators not to make assumptions that simplify the world in which programs, initiatives and “wicked problems” exist. Simplification—and parsing out to key values—is necessary because without it, no evaluation can reveal relationships that matter. We always need a model that provides a simple and straightforward guide for the construction of evaluation designs and data interpretation. The model may be formal or informal, elaborate or sparse, formally constructed or implicit. But always, there is a model, and always, to be useful, the model must provide a parsimonious explanation of the phenomena—and world—at hand. 

Learn more here.

Take a Coffee Break with AEA in February

Communicating Evaluation Results with Financial Stakeholders

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2018, 2-2:20 pm EST | Presented by Samantha Grant and Erin Kelly-Collins

This session will provide tools to help you explain the impact of your programs in compelling ways. Presenters will share tips for developing audience focused content and grounding inspiring stories in evaluation data. You’ll leave this session a savvier impact reporter and an empowered colleague who can share your learning with others. 

Learn more here.

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