AEA Newsletter: June 2016

Diversity - Congratulations to the 2015-16 GEDI Cohort!

From Zachary Grays, AEA Staff

Zachary Grays.jpgThe Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) commencement at Summer Institute 2016 marked another year of GEDI excellence and the continued expansion of diversity in evaluation. A mainstay at the institute, the GEDI commencement celebrates the current cohort’s successful completion of the rigorous program requirements. Joining the alumni ranks of the more than 60 successful GEDI graduates, this year's impressive cohort (the 13th cohort, to be exact) is eager to impart their newly acquired expertise on the world.

This year’s successful scholars (Thana-Ashley Charles, Dominic Combs, Dani Gorman, Agustin Herrera, Marques Hogans, Monique Liston, Ibukun Owoputi, Kenneth Pass, Leah Peoples, and Jamie Vickery) made their final presentations detailing their internship experiences during an intimate luncheon attended by special guests. In a slight modification to the typical luncheon format, the scholars participated in an open group discussion moderated by Dr. Ashaki Jackson, program co-director, recounting their program experiences and, particularly, their experiences promoting and incorporating cultural competence at their host sites. In the grand tradition of cohorts past, this year’s GEDI cohort has chosen the name District 13.

"The quality of scholars moving through the program and into the evaluation field encourages us to increase the training rigor for these new evaluators," said Jackson. "Our scholars are durable, curious, and motivated to do more in they field. They are the program's battery and compass. Each year, we see new opportunities expand their potential for innovative, evaluative thinking and sound practice; thus, elevating the program offerings to accommodate this intellectual growth is priority in our future planning."

AEA congratulates this year’s GEDI cohort! We couldn't be more proud of their hard work and are expecting spectacular things from them in the future.

  • Thana-Ashley Charles, TCC Group
  • Dominic Combs, Partners in Schools Innovation
  • Dani Gorman, The Improve Group
  • Agustin Herrera, Asian Americans Advancing Justice
  • Marques Hogans, Impact Planning Council
  • Monique Liston, Center for Urban Population Health
  • Nancy Mendoza, Mental Health Center of Denver
  • Ibukun Owoputi, The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts
  • Kenneth Pass, Growth Capital Network
  • Leah Peoples, YMCA of the USA
  • Jamie Vickery, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Learn more about the GEDI program and get to know this year's cohort here.

AEA and the GEDI program directors are now in the process of reviewing applications for the next set of future evaluators. The deadline for this year’s applications has been extended to July 7, 2016. Click here to apply.

Potent Presentations Initiative - Glossophobia: Worse Than Spiders?

From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator 

I’ll speak to an audience of thousands before I let a spider come anywhere near me. It is often and widely shared that a fear of public speaking is more common than a fear of death, spiders, darkness, or heights. It is estimated that close to 75 percent of us have glossophobia — the medical term for fear of public speaking — and it affects all genders equally. Becoming a comfortable public speaker is an essential skill and costs little or nothing, especially if you’re resourceful. If you suffer from some degree of public speaking anxiety, the good news is that there is no shortage of good advice available for dealing with it.

A commonly suggested place to go to develop and refine public speaking skills is Toastmasters International. I live near a medium-sized city (Rochester, NY) and found 26 local clubs within a 10-mile radius. Meetup groups  are another great source to learn, support, and practice public speaking — there are even Meetup groups for Toastmasters clubs as well! 

While doing some reading for this article, I reviewed a post on “Presentation Zen,” a blog site by Garr Reynolds, the author of “Presentation Zen” and other books related to presentation and presentation design. While the article itself is good and offers excellent suggestions and links, I found this gem in the comments that made me think differently about the cues we take from our audiences when we’re speaking:

Speakers are still using standard conversational skills by looking for visual approval from people's faces (smiles, nods, etc.), but an audience does not listen in that way; they are just part of a crowd. Audiences very often have blank faces. Speakers are not getting the normal signs of approval so they think [their speaking is] boring, no good, or failing in some way, but it’s just a clash of modes. The speaker is in conversational mode and the audience is in group mode. You need to work on developing new skills to not over-read facial expressions in the audience and you need to work thinking that blank faces are normal. You can learn these skills easily. Once people understand the different skills you need, a lot of the fear disappears. A comfortable speaker has normalized blank faces and is not looking for approval all the time. You’ll end up doing a lot less work, and a lot less overthinking.

 Even if you do not suffer from glossophobia, there are certainly ways to improve pubic speaking abilities. One common, albeit challenging, strategy is to remove filler words from your speech. Filler words, such as “um,” “uh,” and “like,” take up space when you are not delivering content and allow you nanoseconds to gather your thoughts and maintain the forward motion of your speech. Best-selling author Seth Godin says, “You can't remove this verbal tic merely by willing it away,” and offers solid advice for getting rid of fillers, and, of course, the inimitable marketing guru also has advice for dealing with public speaking nerves: Start with dogs.


AEA FeministTIG and EvalGender+: Together for Evaluation of SDGs Through Gender Equality and Equity Len

From Svetlana Negroustoueva, The Feminist Thematic Interest Group

My name is Svetlana Negroustoueva and I have been co-chair of the Feminist Evaluation TIG for almost three years. I have been lucky enough to be co-chair at this very exciting time for feminist evaluation and gender-responsive, equity-focused evaluations; namely, the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 goals replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were in effect from 2000–2015, and provide an ambitious set of targets to guide international development through 2030.

Why is this important for us? Following up on lessons learned from the implementation of MDGs, there is a specific goal: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The global community has come together to acknowledge that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. Equally important, and more relevant for AEA purposes, is the launch of EvalGender+, a global multi-stakeholder partnership for equity-focused and gender-responsive evaluations of SDGs and beyond.

The official launch of EvalGender+ happened during the Global Evaluation Forum in Nepal on November 25, 2015 in front of more than 450 development professionals and policy makers, including almost 100 Parliamentarians from around the world. The EvalPartners Global Evaluation Forum II was a two-day working meeting to further clarify the “what” and “how” of the Global Evaluation Agenda for 2016 through 2020 (EvalAgenda2020) embraced by AEA. AEA was well-represented in Nepal by a team of five, including John Gargani, AEA president-elect, and yours truly, feminist TIG co-chair and official AEA representative for EvalGender+. The launch of the EvalGender+ was consistent with the overall high attention to gender at the Global Evaluation Forum. There was a significant number of sessions related to feminist evaluation and the role evaluation plays in bringing gender equality and social equity together.

Since the launch in Nepal, another landmark event happened: From March 15–17, 2016, the evaluation community gathered in New York to reflect on how to evaluate SDGs with an equity-focused and gender-responsive lens. The event was organized under the leadership of the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of UN Women, EvalGender+, and the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG) in collaboration with EvalPartners, the Global Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluation, the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), other UN agencies, and bilateral partners, as well as the government of Sri Lanka and the government of Tunisia. The high-level event engaged a broad range of stakeholders, while the workshop addressed technical aspects; such as the relevance of the new metrics and agreed indicators, the complexity of the SDGs and the power of partnerships, strategies to strengthen gender responsiveness of national evaluation systems, as well as the demand for and use of evaluation with an equity-focused and gender responsive lens in policy-making. Key takeaways from that event included:

  • Importance of including a transformative lens into evaluation moving beyond the use of disaggregated data to ensure that the voices of women and the most vulnerable are heard
  • Complexity is the new norm to address the SDGs
  • There is a need for adaptability and innovative methodological approaches for addressing complexity
  • Parliamentarians have an important role to play as promoters of gender-responsive evaluation linking policy-makers to evidence to strengthen accountability

EvalGender+ Management Group, which I am a member representing AEA, met after the event. Several task groups were formed and work has begun to build a demand for capacities conducting gender-responsive and equity-focused evaluations of SDGs and beyond.

It is true that the SDGs are aspirational and are accompanied by broad targets. However, framework used to evaluate the progress and effectiveness not only have to reflect the realities on the ground, but have to set a high bar and standard in ensuring that no matter which one of the SDGs is under discussion, gender-responsive and equity-focused lenses are applied in monitoring the progress and evaluating their achievement. Therefore, it is important for feminists and gender specialists to understand how gender issues are addressed in the SDGs and how they can be effectively evaluated. Throughout my professional career in the international development, I have had to explain why there is a need for, at least, gender lenses in the M&E. As evaluators of international development programs, and likely those related to SDGs, we should further strive for gender-transformative and even better evaluations conducted through the feminist lenses. I really hope that together, with EvalGender+, AEA and Feminist TIG, we will serve as a platform for related discussions, knowledge sharing, and mentorship.   

Have an opinion and want to learn more? Please join Feminist TIG, our partner and co-host of EvalGender+ Gender Evaluation Community of Practice: and email me any questions you may have at

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