AEA Newsletter: May 2015

Message from the President - Evaluation Shines Around the World 

Dear Colleagues,

Stewart Donaldson.jpgI hope you will have the opportunity to experience at least a few of the many evaluation events taking place in 2015 – the International Year of Evaluation. EvalPartners has compiled a list of evaluation events scheduled to take place in 2015. Approximately 24 of those events have already occurred, and many of the proceedings can be found on the specific event websites. AEA Local Affiliates and various other groups are also hosting evaluation events that will link to the International Year of Evaluation.

I have been busy attending evaluation events and forging partnerships as well. I’m writing this message from Montreal, Canada, this month, where I am participating in the 36th Canadian Evaluation Society (CES) Conference. The theme this year is Evaluation for the World We Want. As AEA president, I have been invited to be on the panel “Challenges and Opportunities for Evaluation Around the World – Views from Association Presidents” with seven other evaluation association presidents. I will also address the delegates at the CES Awards Luncheon and have invited them to Evaluation 2015 in Chicago. 

Last month I was invited to the Eastern Evaluation Research Society (EERS) in Atlantic City, New Jersey. EERS is the oldest professional evaluation association and the AEA president, as a matter of tradition, is invited to give a keynote address. During my address I discussed the topic of formidable challenges and opportunities for a global evaluation practice. Next month I will be the invited speaker for the AEA Local Affiliate the Atlanta-area Evaluation Association and will teach workshops at the AEA – Centers for Disease Control Summer Evaluation Institute in Atlanta. Later this year you will find me at the Australasian Evaluation Society Conference in Melbourne, Australia; Evaluation 2015 in Chicago; and at the EvalPartners Global Forum at the Parliament of Nepal, among other evaluation events. AEA Board members are representing you at many of the evaluation conferences and events I’m not able to attend.

It seems safe to say that 2015 is going to be remembered as one of the most active and engaging years in the history of evaluation. The wide range of discourse on common themes and challenges promises to further advance evaluation theory and practice and foster a healthy global evaluation dialogue and community.

Please don’t hesitate to connect with me when our paths cross at these meetings. I would love to hear your views on AEA, the field of evaluation, the International Year of Evaluation and how I can best serve you this year as AEA president.

Safe travels, my friends,

Stewart Donaldson

2015 AEA President


Diversity - Notes on a GEDI Experience 

From Zachary Grays, AEA Headquarters 

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Next week will be an exciting time for the Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) Program as we say goodbye to the graduating 12th cohort and receive applications for the 13th cohort of this distinguished program. The GEDI program has unleashed onto the world some of the most talented future evaluators. While their areas of evaluation interests vary, they share a common bond in the prestige of this rigorous program and their remarkable accomplishments. Below, A. Michelle Corbett, MPH, (GEDI cohort 2012-2013 “Sankofa”) recounts her GEDI experience in this month’s diversity column. 



Michelle Corbett.jpgAs I get ready for the annual AEA Summer Evaluation Institute in Atlanta next week, I’m reminded of the first time I attended the Institute in 2013. That was a particularly special occasion (although aren’t most AEA gatherings?) as it was my graduation from the GEDI program and the official beginning of my career in evaluation. Unlike many others in the field, I was not an “accidental evaluator.” As an undergraduate in cultural anthropology, I had my a-ha moment while filing reports for the community-based social services agency I worked for. While pondering both what I was going to do with my degree and if any of the agency’s programs actually made a difference in the lives of the youth and families they served, a lightbulb went off. I was going to help community-based organizations evaluate their programs and, in turn, improve them.

Fast forward 21 years (including a master’s in public health and several positions in community-engaged public health research) and I am thrilled to say that I am fortunate to do just that as an assistant researcher at the Center for Urban Population Health (CUPH) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am the lead evaluator on four multiyear projects, including one that aims to normalize and increase breastfeeding in the African-American community and a dementia wellness intervention project for underserved African-American elders, both in Milwaukee. In addition, I am the evaluation specialist for the regional program office of the Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families, supporting coalitions working to address the disparities in African-American birth outcomes in four southeastern Wisconsin cities. I obtained my position at CUPH just weeks after graduating from the GEDI program and I have no doubt that having been a GEDI set me apart from the other candidates and has continued to serve me in my position.

The AEA website outlines the nuts and bolts of the GEDI program. Let me take a moment to elaborate on what those nuts and bolts did for me. Throughout the nine-plus months of the program, I was challenged to and supported in questioning my assumptions, clarifying my values, developing my interpersonal and technical skills, and building the foundation of my culturally responsive evaluation practice by my five cohort-mates, program mentors, host-site supervisors, GEDI alum, and myriad other members of the AEA community. Through cohort group projects and the wide variety of work I did at my host site, Planning Council for Health and Human Services (now IMPACT Planning Council), I was given ample opportunity to hone these skills and apply theories, approaches, and concepts I was exposed to during workshops, conference sessions, GEDI webinars and in-person meetings, and one-on-one conversations with seasoned evaluators and leaders in the field. These conversations providing professional and personal support and space for critical reflection were and continue to be invaluable. The opportunities to have them and to develop ongoing relationships within the AEA community have probably been the most valuable benefits for me of the GEDI program.

As I head to Atlanta for my third Summer Institute, I’m looking forward not only to continue my professional development and see friends and my evaluation family but to help celebrate the graduation of the current GEDI cohort. And as the application deadline nears, I’m truly excited about the opportunity to give back to AEA and the GEDI program, in particular Drs. Ashaki Jackson, Stewart Donaldson, and John LaVelle, by being a supervising mentor for a student in the 2015-2016 cohort.

Interested in applying for the GEDI program? Click here to learn more. Applications are due Friday, June 5, 2015


Potent Presentations Initiative - Slide Design Guidelines: What Not to Present 

From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator 

Sheila Robinson-RS 2.pngHappy spring, everyone! Hey, it’s May, and time to do a little spring cleaning, so go through your closets and dump all those 1990s styles. They’re not coming back anytime soon! The same goes for those outdated 1990s PowerPoint styles.

The other day, I attended an important presentation. The content of the presentation was relevant to me, but I found myself distracted by the unnecessary and irrelevant PowerPoint template filled with bullet after bullet of unnecessary text and a dizzying array of 3-D graphs. I walked away slightly disoriented, having not retained a good understanding of the material. This presentation broke all the rules! It was like watching the first segment of a “What Not to Wear” episode.

Of course I’m well aware of critics who see presentation design as nothing more than the superficial “dressing up” of PowerPoint slides for that oh-so-modern fashion statement. I can assure you, however, that “form over substance” is not at all the goal of good design.

p2i photo.jpgLet me tell you what happened during that presentation. The presenter knew the material, was practiced and polished, was a good natural public speaker, and had a clear and compelling message to deliver. That said, the poorly designed slides obfuscated those positive attributes. First came the slide with seven bullet points of text. Naturally, I read through them at my own pace, the consequence of which was I missed what the speaker was telling us about those points. Next, I saw the slide with six different graphs with axis labels too small to be read. Like the rest of the audience, I found myself squirming in my seat, squinting at the screen trying to identify key data points. Assuming I needed to understand all six graphs in relation to each other, my eyes darted from one to the other, trying to quickly compare the data and make sense of it all before the next slide appeared, again, missing what the speaker had to say.

I will forgo discussing the eight-sliced, 3-D, rainbow-colored exploding pie graph*, the veritable mint green, short-sleeved, polyester leisure suit of presentations. Needless to say, I left this session with no understanding of the speaker’s take on the bullet points and virtually no memory of why we were shown the graphs in the first place.

Thankfully, we have an excellent free resource available on the p2i website that presenters can access to learn the rules of good presentation design. Slide design guidelines are like the Stacy and Clinton of PowerPoint (Stacy and Clinton are the hosts of the TV show “What Not to Wear.”). Let’s face it – we all know we need to make design decisions around text, font, color, graphs, and graphics. Why not check out these rules before your next presentation?

For concise, easily digestible illustrations of the rules in action (with a healthy dose of good humor), check out this blog post and cartoon series, courtesy of presentation and dataviz rock stars Chris Lysy and Stephanie Evergreen. Stephanie’s book, “Presenting Data Effectively: Communicating Your Findings for Maximum Impact,” offers even deeper explanations of the rules and the science behind them.

Have a question or suggestion about p2i? Email me at

*Sadly, I am not making this up. Promise.


International Policy Update - Want to Be Part of an International Evaluation Partnership?

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

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     Jim Rugh 2010.01.16.JPG

If you answered “Yes,” or maybe even “Heck, yes!” then you need to know about AEA’s International Partnership Program (IPP). This is a fairly new program for AEA, and the idea is to fund temporary, short-term projects between our Local Affiliates or Topical Interest Groups (TIGs) and groups of evaluators in other countries. It’s an exciting option, and we hope you and your colleagues take advantage of it. But be aware – the deadline for the next opportunity is July 31.

First, though, let’s explain one piece of jargon: In the global arena, organized groups of evaluators are known as VOPEs (pronounced “VOE-peez”), which stands for Voluntary Organizations for Professional Evaluation. AEA is a VOPE, and so are the Canadian Evaluation Society, the Paraguayan Evaluation Network, the Vietnam Network for M&E, etc. Right now there are 124 national VOPEs, nine subnational VOPEs, and 18 regional VOPEs recognized by the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE). That’s 151 VOPEs – amazing growth from only seven VOPEs just 20 years ago!

The IPP provides up to $5,000 to allow an AEA Local Affiliate or TIG to partner with one or more VOPEs in other countries so that each partner both gives and receives knowledge and improves each other’s capacity. For example, a Local Affiliate could partner with an appropriate VOPE elsewhere (as the Washington Evaluators did very recently with VOPEs in Central Asia). Or a TIG could partner with a national or regional VOPE that shares similar interests (for example, the Environmental Program Evaluation TIG might partner with Caribbean Evaluators International to advance good practices for evaluating the protection of coral reefs).

The possibilities of the IPP really are enormous. To help you, here are nine easy steps to an international partnership:

  1. Learn the details about the IPP. We’ve described the basics, but click here to learn more.
  2. Decide if it makes more sense to work through your Local Affiliate or one of your TIGs. Here is a list of all 29 Local Affiliates, and here is a list of all 55 TIGs.
  3. Approach the leaders of your Local Affiliate or TIG to gauge their interest. Remember that the stated objective of the IPP is “strengthening the professional organizations and practitioners of evaluation.”
  4. Sketch out the beginnings of a project for an international partnership. Keep in mind that the project should be short, self-contained, and cost no more than $5,000. (Note that the $5,000 is not a grant. It covers actual hard costs that are paid directly by AEA, such as travel or accommodation.) To help you get started, here is a wonderful toolkit that’s filled with good ideas about developing and strengthening a VOPE. 
  5. Identify a VOPE outside the U.S. that would be an appropriate partner for your project. (It’s possible to partner with more than one VOPE, as Washington Evaluators did.) The IOCE has a directory of registered VOPEs and an interactive map of VOPEs around the world.
  6. Since other VOPEs are asked to register on the IOCE database, it would be a good idea to resister your Local Affiliate there as well. Yes, your Local Affiliate can be recognized as a VOPE, too!
  7. Contact your intended partner VOPE to gauge its interest. Contact information for each VOPE is available in the IOCE directory mentioned above; more detailed information about most VOPEs is available from survey responses accessible here.
  8. If both (or all) parties are interested, jointly develop the required application, which can be found on this page.
  9. Don’t hesitate! Remember, the next deadline for applications is July 31, so that gives you only two months to complete steps one through eight.

As you can see, it’s not that hard to develop an international evaluation partnership. We urge you to take advantage of this new AEA program, and we look forward to reporting your great success in a future column.



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