AEA Newsletter: November 2017

Message from the President

From Kathy Newcomer, AEA President 

I am very grateful to the organization and each of you as members for the tremendous learning opportunities I was provided this year while serving as AEA President. It was a joy and inspiration to work with others in planning and holding our Race and Class Dialogues and annual conference, as well as visit our Affiliates and other evaluation associations across the world. Thank you all for giving me this amazing experience. And a very special thanks to my conference committee of 17 who produced such an impressive program and successful video contest (many of whom are in the picture here).

PresidentsMessage_Program Committee.jpgWhat a year this was! Divisive and mean-spirited politics and discourse around immigration to the United States posed challenges to the inclusive nature of our profession and our AEA community. While our political environment was incredibly distressing as one after another unprecedented event transpired, I am prouder than ever that our organization is firmly committed in our words and deeds to our core values of inclusiveness, multiculturalism, and diversity. Despite the dispiriting politics surrounding us, our 2017 conference welcomed more participants than ever before, more first-time participants than ever before, and more international attendees than ever before – from 81 countries!

Our conference theme, “From Learning to Action,” inspired much learning from others – from professionals outside of our profession, and from one another! I was very gratified to observe attendees engaging in sessions that stretched their minds, learning about such diverse topics as brain rules, feminist evaluation principles, sustainable development goals, the use of games to improve our practice, addressing complexity and beyond!  

Actions taken on AEA members’ behalf by our many leaders – working in Task Forces, Topical Interest Groups (TIGs), Affiliates, our Financial Advisory Board, our Board and many Working Groups – helped us move forward in achieving our goals, such as increasing understanding of different types of evaluation strategies, as well as their appropriate use in diverse settings. Raising the stature of the AEA as a valuable and active voice in the U.S., and helping us work even more collaboratively with other evaluation associations across the globe to promote evaluation was invaluable. I think it was a very good year for AEA.

But what next? I want to reiterate some of the concerns I voiced in my address on November 8. In light of the continuing bias and institutional and structural racism in our society, and the continuing divisive political environment, it is my belief we need to:

  • Be persistent and consistent in incorporating an equity lens when designing and evaluating all programs and policies. Relatedly, we need to be inclusive and incorporate the values of beneficiaries when defining (and refining) what program success looks like. I hope that many will benefit from the excellent video produced to help us learn from our Race and Class Dialogues. (Thank you to the Kellogg Foundation for your support of this project!)
  • Draw from our values and strengths to bring evaluative thinking into policy and program design and implementation, as well as evaluation. Embrace new ideas, “big data,” but build upon, and not replace, our ethical principles, knowledge and skills.
  • Carefully set criteria as to what constitutes sufficient evidence, and work with others to co-create our expectations of valid, reliable and relevant evidence in a multicultural setting
  • Intentionally and strategically create learning agendas, both personally and organizationally, and reward learning from measurement and evaluation of all sorts.
  • Hold ourselves accountable to the people affected by the programs and policies we evaluate.

Thank you all for giving me an incredible learning experience and I look forward to remaining engaged in our vibrant community!

My warmest regards,

Evaluation 2017

Thoughts from Abigail Korda, First-Time Attendee

We spoke with Abigail Korda, who is from Ghana and works with the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA), an umbrella organization with over 37 national Monitoring and Evaluation association members and networks across Africa. This year was the first time Abigail attended the Evaluation conference, and below she shares her thoughts on this experience. 

Abigail Korda.jpgAs the operations and membership manager of AfrEA, I attended the Evaluation 2017 conference to network with people involved in evaluation activities, including practicing evaluators, evaluation scholars, students, and evaluation users from around the world, to gain knowledge that will positively influence my work and AfrEA’s work with evaluators across the African region.

The evaluation conference’s Think Tank session on “cultural conflicts of interest” opened my mind on what it is, how to avoid it, and how to handle such conflicts when they are arise. During a presentation on the application of adult learning theory to evaluation capacity, I also learned the importance of factoring in the learning rate for adults when coming up with capacity building programs, which will be accessed by the not so young evaluators.

Participating in “Birds of a Feather Gatherings” made it possible for me to me to network and learn from other participants, through sharing questions and answers with people from across the globe. These discussions covered a wide range of subjects, such as health governance and policymaking. Being part of this conference allowed me to network with people from across the globe while gaining knowledge.

The American Evaluation conference provides an opportunity for every participant to learn from the experiences of others and share theirs with participants while networking. Through hallway conversations, Think Tank sessions, exhibitions, round table sessions, a lot can be learned and shared, as well as getting to meet great people. There couldn’t be anything better than that.


Accelerating the Use of Culturally Responsive Evaluation: A Panel Event Co-sponsored by ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc. and Greater Milwaukee Foundation

By Nicole Robinson, Lamont Smith, Emily Connors, and Kate Westaby

On October 25, 2017, ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc., the Wisconsin statewide AEA affiliate, and Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the largest community foundation in Wisconsin, held a moderated panel titled Achieving Racial Equity by Changing the Dynamic Between Residents and Decision-makers: A Look at Culturally Responsive Grant-making Practice and Evaluation. Our panelists were:

The event was moderated by affiliate members Michelle Robinson, Research, Data & Policy Associate at Kids Forward, and Melissa Petts, Undergraduate Student in Education at UW-Milwaukee. (If you are interested to learn more about the panelists, take a look at their bios!)

The panel was a step in the right direction, a pivotal moment, and a moment that can be acknowledged as a satisfying win that grew out of years of organizational learning and relationship building between an AEA affiliate and a local funder. A success, damn it! (If you’re a changemaker, you know the work is far from being done and the durability of racism and injustice can make key moments like this hard to recognize and appreciate. It can make you wonder whether your event is setting up a process for real change or just another “talk shop.”) 

So, what made the event so swag? (i.e. meaningful) 

1. The panelists were asked to be real and to be bold advocates for racial equity and their truth. Each panelist was given a set of questions to address, such as:

  • What is the foundation’s view of power?
  • How do funders treat nonprofit leaders like you and organizations like yours?
  • What does an equal partnership between residents and funders look like?
  • Does culturally responsive evaluation (CRE) really add robustness to an evaluation project?

Often panel discussions stick to topics that do not challenge the current narrative. In fact, many aim to inform, rather than shift the discourse. As event organizers, we had to guarantee and create space for truth telling so panelists could say what needs to be said. This took courage and required everyone, even the attendees, to take risks.

We prepared the space in a few ways. For instance, starting with the opening remarks, we caused enough sweet discomfort for some attendees to cross their arms for the entire meeting. ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc. came out of the gate reframing the current challenges within equity-focused initiatives, stating bravely and bluntly that social and economic progress was not happening, in part, because of how evaluations were being conducted in the state, and specifically, that Wisconsin evaluators were not prepared to address racism and other forms of oppression in their evaluation projects.

By the close of the panel, we could already see how uncomfortable (but real-talk) conversations about race and power are timely and necessary if we are going to work toward racial equity and social justice. As a result of this event, one group in attendance has started planning a similar panel in another town. Another resident group invited us to present on CRE at its neighborhood meeting, and yet another Milwaukee funder approached us to begin learning about CRE and the ways its grantees can use it.        

While some wanted us to be bolder and to agitate more than we did, the panel event allowed Greater Milwaukee Foundation to engage its stakeholders in a conversation on culturally responsive grant-making and CRE, and to signal more clearly its plans to work differently with its partners. It allowed ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc. to live out its mission and value-added by supporting learning across sectors, including philanthropy.

The event could have been longer than two hours. For example, one of the first questions asked of panelist Paul Elam was how he handled White fragility in his evaluation projects. That question deserved more time and more debate among audience members – it deserved its own panel.

2. The event was planned differently. Our affiliate defines social justice as a process, not an outcome. The process requires shifts in power and collaborative action aimed at building solidarity and addressing the root causes of oppression. For this work to be real (or legitimate), we had to model the kind of change we want to see. A few examples:

  • The team that planned and executed the event was intentionally intergenerational and multi-cultural. Melissa Pettis, for example, is completing her bachelor’s in education. She joined the affiliate as a student member after attending the presentation by another affiliate member and former GEDI scholar, Monique Liston. Melissa told us she joined the affiliate because she was so impressed with Monique that, “anything she was into, I wanted to be into.” Within a few minutes of meeting her, we asked her to co-moderate the panel and after the first planning call, Melissa had assigned us with a chapter reading by Pablo Freire. We provided coaching on how to moderate a panel discussion, but the most important thing we did was create space for her to practice her leadership style. This was a simple, engaging, and rewarding way to support a pipeline for people of color to become exposed to evaluators and meet evaluation stakeholders.
  • The panelists and moderators were all people of color. Panelists.jpgThis was especially important for the topic of racial equity but more important for the Milwaukee context – to have professionals of color leading the discussion as problem solvers. Michelle Robinson, another affiliate member and co-moderator, gave unapologetic ground rules that the attendees should be cognizant of the racial makeup of the panel when they ask questions, as part of creating a productive meeting space. It should also be noted that we had a second resident panelist so the resident voice was supported and amplified on the panel. Unfortunately, the second panelist could not attend due to a family death, but their fellow residents were there in show of support and as a part of their own leadership development to see and hear resident leaders talk directly to funders about their grant-making practices. 
  • White allies had a role. The Greater Milwaukee Foundation, like much of philanthropy, has had a majority white staff and leadership for most of its history. The Foundation’s current President Ellen Gilligan can be credited with intentionally diversifying the staff, with nearly a majority of core staff being people of color. The Foundation also currently has notable racial diversity on the Board with people of color also holding officer positions, including Chairperson. The Civic Engagement team took contributions from the community a step further and recognized the resident panelists as experts, compensating them for their time with an honorarium based on a consultant hourly rate (not a gift card). Visual Representation.jpgEmily Connors, co-founder of ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc. secured another Wisconsin-based White evaluator to donate a graphic recording of the meeting, which provided a stunning visual of the conversation. Both women are not afraid to name racism and oppression, and it’s apparent in their work. Kate Westaby, an affiliate board member, is leading the CRE survey our affiliate launched this year. Those results were used to make the case that Wisconsin evaluators do want to learn about CRE and that one of the biggest barriers to incorporating it is that funders do not request it. In this event, both Kate and Emily operated from a standpoint of listening and engaging people of color in this work in a way that is healthy; in a way that avoided doing the work on “behalf” of others. They willingly walked into a space where things might be uncomfortable.

Our affiliate started because of AEA’s cultural competency statement and an annual conference on Values and Valuing in 2011. In 2012, we were recognized as the Wisconsin statewide AEA affiliate and in 2013 we held our inaugural conference called Social Justice & Evaluation, which has become our flagship event. In 2015 and 2016, we launched a series of webinars led by Paul Elam and Willard Walker of Public Policy Associates, on racism and evaluation. The Foundation’s senior leadership staff participated in those webinars, and a member of the Foundation’s Civic Engagement team attended every Social Justice & Evaluation conference, bringing this work into the foundation’s organizational learning and work plans. In 2017, the Foundation’s board formally adopted culturally responsive evaluation concepts into its Racial Equity framework. During its strategic planning process, the board learned more about how CRE can transform and guide the Foundation’s discretionary grantmaking, advocacy, and stakeholder engagement activities.

Our 2017 panel was indeed a success. A recording of the event will be out soon!

 Lamont Smith.jpg   Group Photo.jpg

Pictured left: Lamont Smith; Right: Group photo of Panelists

Policy Watch

Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act and AEA Conference

From Cheryl Oros, Consultant to the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF)
Cheryl Oros.jpg

We have reported this year on the efforts of the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking and their report released in September. In yet another example of bipartisan support and action, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray submitted a bill on November 2 (H.R. 4174 – 115th Congress: Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017), which quickly passed in the House on November 15 and has moved to the Senate for consideration. The bill addresses several recommendations from the report:

Federal Evidence-Building Activities

  • Requires federal agencies to create evidence-building plans for identifying and addressing policy questions relevant to the programs, policies, and regulations of the agency; these plans will be consolidated into one government-wide plan by the Office of Management and Budget;
  • Establishes Chief Evaluation Officers to be designated in agencies to coordinate evidence-building activities within the agency to continually assess the coverage, quality, methods, consistency, effectiveness, independence and balance of the portfolio of evaluations, policy research, and ongoing evaluation activities of the agency; and
  • Creates an advisory committee to study the Commission’s recommendation to create a National Secure Data Service to coordinate data availability for evidence building.

OPEN Government Act

The bill also incorporates the text of H.R. 1770, the OPEN Government Data Act, which:

  • Ensures maximum data availability while respecting privacy and national security concerns
  • Requires federal agencies to appoint/designate a Chief Data Officer
  • Instructs federal agencies to establish a data inventory and federal data catalogue

Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency

  • Expands access to data while improving privacy standards

American Evaluation Association 2017 Conference

Thank you to those AEA Members who attended the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) Update and Discussion session and shared their thoughts on policy issues. We also want to extend a special thank you to the many speakers who provided their insights on federal evaluation policy and the conduct of evaluation in federal evaluation offices:

  • From the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission: Katherine Abraham, Chair, and Bob Haskins, Co-Chair
  • From the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President: Nancy Potok, Chief Statistician of the U.S., and Diana Epstein, Evaluation Team Lead
  • From Executive Branch federal evaluation offices: Amanda Cash, ASPE, HHS; Naomi Goldstein, ACF; Mary Hyde, CNS; Daniel Kidder, CDC; Melissa Palisades, USAID; Emily Schmitt, ACF; Mark Shroder, HUD; Christina Yancey, DOL; and Bill Valdez, Senior Executives Association

We also thank the 85 AEA members who volunteered their time to take advantage of the conference location in Washington, D.C., to visit Capitol Hill and spread information about AEA and the field of evaluation. In particular, Brian Yates and other Washington Evaluators (local AEA affiliate) worked to make this effort successful.

EPTF will hold a complimentary webinar in December to repeat the information distributed at the EPTF update session at the conference. Stay tuned for more information on the content and registration process.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at

Potent Presentations Initiative

A Dozen Resources for Presentation Design, Thanks to Forbes

From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator 

Sheila Robinson-RS 2.png

In 2014, Forbes asked for presentation advice from experts working in diverse fields. Some might be considered presentationists, those who devote their careers to the art and science of giving presentations, while others work in other fields but have become top-notch presenters.

In “20 World-Class Presentation Experts Share Their Top Tips,” by Mark Fidelman, one to two tips are offered from each expert. I’ve checked out the websites from the experts who were asked and shared a dozen of them in the table below. Most sites feature the expert’s paid services, including consulting, speaking, presentation design, PowerPoint templates, etc., but each also offers some free content and resources.




Echo Swinford  

Powerpoint tutorials and a blog

Alan Goeman, Marshall Makestein 

Before and after slide makeovers and a blog

Tom Peters 

Event slides, videos, and a blog

Andrew Skivally 

A prolific blog and some free images for subscribers

Rick Altman 

Editorial articles and podcasts about presenting

Dave Paradi 

A huge collection of articles on various aspects of presentation design, focused on PowerPoint

Geetesh Bajaj 

PowerPoint tutorials, articles and a blog

Les Posen 

Bog articles on a variety of presentation topics

Jan Schultink 

A blog focusing on business presentations

Charmaine Mumbulla 

Blog articles, mostly on slide design, along with a few slide shows

Konrad Schroth

PowerPoint blog with tips and technique


A Word About Templates

Many of these sites offer free or paid PowerPoint templates, as well. However, many presentation designers recommend staying away from templates or creating your own minimalist templates. A template is not at all necessary for a presentation, and if one is used, it should lend a sense of unity to the slide deck without distracting from the content being presented.

Please let me know which sites and resources you find most helpful!

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.

P2i_Image 1.jpg

   P2i_Image 2.jpg

Images courtesy of #WOCinTechChat,

December eStudy

Introduction to Consulting 

Are you a program evaluator interested in venturing out on your own? If so, we encourage you to join our December eStudy, "Introduction to Consulting," presented by Dr. Gail Vallance Barrington, President of Barrington Research Group, Inc.

For many, this may be an exciting and intimidating prospect, but this practical eStudy course will reveal the simple but important skills needed to be successful. This eStudy will occur in four 90-minute sessions, from December 5-14. Each will cover three inter-related topics. Learning outcomes include, but are not limited to, determining if consulting is an appropriate career choice, examining business plan essentials, and thinking about work-life balance.

Dr. Gail Vallance Barrington is a senior evaluation advisor and well-known Canadian program evaluator, educator, and writer. She has more than 30 years of experience running her own consulting practice, Barrington Research Group, Inc., and has conducted over 130 program evaluation and applied research studies. 

For additional information and registration details, visit AEA’s eStudy page:

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