AEA Newsletter: September 2019

Message from the President

What Does Membership Engagement Look Like Under a Policy Governance Structure?

From Tessie Catsambas, AEA President

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Dear AEA Colleagues, 

I write this update from the exhilarating celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the CDC Evaluation Framework where I hosted a panel of past presidents’ (Leslie Goodyear, Kathy Newcomer and John Gargani). They shared their reflections on landmark events in evaluation and future hopes for the profession. Michael Patton delivered a stirring and musical keynote as we celebrated the important work evaluators have been doing to bring the essential service of evaluation to support the CDC’s mission of "saving lives, protecting people." My favorite moment was the standing ovation for our own Tom Chapel after receiving the CDC Evaluation Trailblazer Award. Congratulations, Tom!

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I am very excited to welcome our new President-elect, Tom Gayson; Treasurer Felicia Bohanon; and three Members-at-Large: Karen Jackson, Libby Smith, and Tom Kelly. Congratulations to all of you! We look forward to your service in the coming years. A big thank you to everyone who ran, and to the large number of volunteers that work with our tireless staff to run AEA.

Speaking of volunteers, what a pleasure it is for me to be working with an amazing AEA Board this year. There is much to be grateful for in the work of the board. My favorite part? The in-depth board member conversations both during in-person meetings and in between meetings in online exchanges. Members have leaned into the work, bringing the best of what they know, their openness to learning and growing as board members, and devoting focused energy and thought to every conversation. AEA Past President and Board Secretary Leslie Goodyear has been keeping you informed about the work of the Board in the AEA Newsletter, and I just want to convey the extensive deliberations that have gone into every issue. On our docket now is the business of assessing the performance of AEA operations — led and supported by staff and volunteers — to serve members. Very exciting!

From 12-1 p.m. on October 9, we will hold a Townhall on AEA’s International Engagement Strategy. Why should you care? Well, for so many reasons! We learn together with other countries and partners, we support each other by amplifying the voice each one has in our respective countries and organizations, and we evolve our profession forging paths for the future of evaluation. We are not observers following international trends, but full partners in creating them. In this Townhall, we will simplify the complex international evaluation landscape and explore connections and alignment between AEA’s U.S. priorities. We'll take action with our international contributions and interests in evaluation policy, professionalization of evaluation, local ownership and participation, and so many other fronts. Join us, and bring your questions and observations.

A special update on the international front is that the new EvalPartners co-chair on the United Nations side is Dr. Andrea Cook, Director of Evaluation at the World Food Programme and Vice Chair for Evaluation Function of the United Nations Evaluation Group. Andrea will share the leadership of EvalPartners with IOCE President Adeline Sibanda. We are very lucky to have these two strong leaders at the helm of international cooperation in evaluation. They are both committed to local ownership, building decentralized evaluation capacity, and strengthening the practice of evaluation. Welcome!

Another special moment for me was being with the new GEDI class when they were in Washington, DC. A big shoutout to leaders Rodney Hopson and Randi Gilbert, mentor Hazel Simonette, and AEA Coordinator Zachary Grays for their support and stewardship of this fabulous AEA program (see photo where GEDIs are hosted by The Evaluators’ Institute and EnCompass LLC in a career’s fireside)!

GEDIs are hosted by The Evaluators’ Institute and EnCompass LLC in a career’s fireside

In our July Townhall on member engagement and inclusion, we promised to hold a second one in December, featuring some new perspectives. We are now ready to work on putting that together. If there is a perspective that you think should be featured, please get in touch with me at  

Finally, we have turned the corner of the year, and can now see our conference coming up ahead in November. How exciting that is! Many of us are involved in preparing, rehearsing, and organizing a wonderful program for all participants, so make sure you are registered and ready!


Walking the Talk with Aisha Rios 

What do AEA's Values Mean to Me? 

From Aisha Rios, PhD, Evaluator at Vantage Point 


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Many AEA values resonate with my practice as an evaluator. However, I want to use this opportunity to focus on the AEA value of inclusiveness and diversity. This value’s emphasis on welcoming people with a range of backgrounds and experiences resonates with my personal experience and practice as an evaluator in a number of ways.

I am a woman of color, raised by a single mother who has always, first and foremost, been an advocate. She advocated (successfully) for my inclusion in education pathways that defined me as “gifted,” by highlighting bias in a placement test I took in elementary school. She knew my being on that pathway would pave my way through the education system in other ways. She also advocated (unsuccessfully) for all students in my high school to have the option of taking AP Statistics, which she believed all students should have access to (not just those deemed capable of passing the course).

My understanding of inclusion and diversity is deeply informed by those early experiences, as well as more recent life experiences and directly fuels my commitment to social justice. Throughout my life, I’ve been invited to sit at certain tables of opportunity due to the perseverance of people like my mother. Because of this, I know that having a seat at the table is not the same as having a say in what is happening at the table (as the popular saying goes). For example, years ago, I worked with a grassroots advocacy organization that struggled to attract and retain volunteers with different understandings of intimate partner violence, and how to approach advocacy work. The founding board members possessed fundamentally different beliefs that were embedded in the mission, vision, and values, as well as the committees they established. They invited people who approached the advocacy work differently to join in as volunteers and in leadership positions, but because these invitations did not equate to real decision-making power, the invitation to the table did not materialize in a sustaining way.

One of the challenges we face as evaluators when talking about inclusion and diversity is how to situate these terms contextually: specifying who exactly we want to include and why – and asking those we work with to do the same. When we say we address diversity through our hiring practices or in the services we provide, who exactly are we talking about? Why does it matter to both include them and name them, rather than using language that masks difference? Additionally, how specifically are we acting inclusively – are we inviting people to have a say in how and why we do our work, or are we inviting people to contribute after the most important decisions have been made?

These are the hard questions we strive to ask and answer where I work at Vantage Evaluation – both in our work with clients and in the way we operate as an organization. For example, our team practices shared decision-making in our day-to-day project work and in the formation of processes and systems that we rely on to do that work. What shared decision-making looks like has shifted over time, but at the heart of it, we strive to ensure those affected by a decision are involved in making those decisions. This practice is important to us because we value our diverse grounded knowledge and expertise as individuals and believe leaning on one another in this manner makes us stronger as a team together.

The AEA value of inclusiveness and diversity is a reminder to keep improving our practice in this area and encouraging others to do the same. Similar to my mother, sometimes we'll be successful, and sometimes we need to try harder, but we keep our effort and our advocacy constant.


Potent Presentations Initiative

Five Rad Resources for "Hands-On" Training 

From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator 

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Did you know the most popular TED Talkers used an average of 465 hand gestures in each 18-minute talk? Talking with your hands makes you appear more assured, confident, and effective as a communicator. Too bad so many of us are uncomfortable adding hand gestures and deliberate body language to our presentations! Truth be told though, there are as many opinions on what to do with your hands as there are hand gestures. While no specific set of gestures is sure to work for everyone, the more you learn and practice, the more comfortable you will become using your hands intentionally and effectively during presentations.

“And we're walking, and we're walking, and we're stopping.”

To learn something new, I often turn to people in other fields and draw connections from their work. This famous quote comes from the White House tour guide in the 1993 comedy movie, “Dave.” What can we learn from tour guides? Turns out, a lot. They are presenters, after all. Host Kelsey Tonner  a successful global tour guide – explains a number of easy-to-learn strategies in this YouTube video, What To Do with your Hands while Speaking: Effective Hand Gestures for Tour Guides. Surprisingly, what may feel unnatural or uncomfortable for you may, in fact, look very natural and comfortable to your audience members. Tonner even shares a quick exercise you can do to find your “base posture.” This, he explains, is where you start from, and return to.

How the Wrong Way Can Help Us Get It Right

In Six Wrong Ways to Make a Right First Impression, nonverbal communication expert Michael Grinder demonstrates what not to do with your hands during a presentation. His main point, however, is actually about what to do. When your voice pauses, your hands take a pause as well. They stop moving until you start speaking again.

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Adding (Hand) Tools to Your Toolbox

In 20 Hand Gestures You Should Be Using, behavioral investigator Vanessa Van Edwards describes her TED Talks study (quoted above) and also shares several informative videos including one on what certain hand gestures mean around the world (warning: there’s some NSFW* language in there).

The HuffPost article, The Fascinating Science Behind ‘Talking’ With Your Hands, explains how gesturing is actually linked to our speech, why it’s considered a second language, and what happens when gestures and speech don’t match up.

In an article from Forbes (Great Leaders Talk With Their Hands), Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., an executive coach and consultant, describes a baker’s dozen of (mostly) specific categories of different hand gestures and their meanings and purposes. One example, she describes as a “hand gesture of composure” is actually a posture – “Arms at waist and bent to a 45-degree angle (accompanied by a stance about shoulder-width wide).” Kinsey Gorman recommends to leaders for using between hand gestures.

Practice ‘Til They Notice!

I don’t remember when I started intentionally studying and practicing hand gestures for presentations, but they feel so natural to me now that I’ve inadvertently incorporated them into my every day conversations. How do I know this? My dear family loves to tease me about it (all in good fun, of course)! The upside is, thinking about hand gestures no longer distracts me from my presentations.

*NSFW = Not safe for work


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 on any of these.


Policy Watch

Updated AEA Guidance on Evaluation Policies 

From Stephanie Shipman, member of the Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF)

I am very pleased to share AEA’s recently updated Roadmap, "An Evaluation Roadmap for a More Effective Government." Since the Roadmap’s publication nearly a decade ago, it has been widely used by federal agencies to help develop and sustain their evaluation capacity. I also found it extremely useful in consulting with other governments on how to organize effective evaluation offices. The Roadmap provides recommendations for how to institutionalize evaluation in government. AEA’s Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) revised the Roadmap over the past year to incorporate member feedback and reforms for federal evaluation, statistical, and data access policies enacted in the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018. AEA publicly applauded Congress’ passage of the Act, saying “(I)t demonstrates that elected leaders agree that program evaluation is an essential activity for understanding how programs operate and for improving public policies.”

The revised Roadmap is designed to help federal agencies as they move forward to implement the Act’s requirements. Read more here about the framework and the revision process.

The Roadmap was originally produced in 2009, in response to then President Barack Obama's calls to increase the use of evidence in policymaking. The Roadmap provides a framework to help agencies develop an evaluation program to support organizational learning. It also recommends ways Congress can help institutionalize evaluation in government. Key principles of the framework include:

  • Support independent evaluation offices with adequate resources and skilled staff
  • Ensure all programs and policies are subject to evaluation
  • Select appropriate evaluation approaches from a broad range of methods
  • Establish and publish evaluation policies and quality standards
  • Plan a body of strategic evaluation work in consultation with stakeholders
  • Disseminate evaluation results widely and follow up on their recommendations

Since 2009, much has changed in the evaluation landscape. In 2010, Congress enacted major reforms to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), aiming to increase use of evaluation evidence in policymaking. In 2017, the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking issued unanimous recommendations that suggested formalizing the role of evaluation in federal agencies with chief evaluation officers. The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 requires federal agencies to establish chief evaluation officers and to publish evaluation policies, annual evaluation plans, and multiyear “learning agendas.” In the same period, AEA has published statements on cultural competence in evaluation (2011) and evaluator competencies (2018), and updated its guiding principles (2018).

To ensure the Roadmap’s continued relevance to discussions of evaluation policy, the Task Force solicited input from AEA membership on the usefulness and relevance of the Roadmap through the AEA365 blog, EVALTALK, AEA Newsletter, and a listening session at the 2018 national conference. The revised Roadmap ─ retaining the same framework as the original, while incorporating updated AEA policies and the new federal evaluation requirements ─ was reviewed and approved by the board.

AEA leadership and the Task Force hope that members will find the paper useful in sustaining effective evaluation practice and in communicating to partners and stakeholders the importance of an independent evaluation function for informing effective management and public policy. Please send any comments or suggestions to the Task Force at


Oxford's Most Recent Evaluation, Research, and Nonprofit Publications

Available with AEA's Discounted Price 

AEA wants to ensure members are aware of Oxford’s most recent evaluation, research, and nonprofit publications that are all available at the discounted price with the AEA’s code:

AEA members receive 20% off on publications from our publishing partners: Corwin Press, Jossey Bass, Lyceum, SAGE, and Wiley when ordering directly from the publisher. AEA members also receive 25% and free shipping using promotional code: AFAEA with Guilford. Please join us in thanking these publishers for their ongoing support of the association and the field, and be sure to stop by their tables at the annual conference.

Limitations: Each publisher uses a slightly different process and you must use the process specified in the link below in order to access your discount - discounts will not be applied retroactively. In all cases, the discount applies to the price of the item itself and may not be applied towards shipping or taxes or added to other discounts.

If you are a publisher and would like to participate as an AEA publishing partner, or if you are an author of an evaluation-related text from an alternate publisher that you would like to see participate, please contact the AEA office at

TIG Update: Social Impact Measurement (SIM)

In an effort to make sure that we are all engaging in Social Impact Measurement emerging issues and discussions throughout the year ─ the SIM TIG Leadership has curated a three-part webinar series on Evaluation and Impact Investing designed to engage evaluators and impact investors on the opportunities for, and necessity of, using evaluative thinking in social finance and impact investing.

The webinar series is co-hosted with the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. The Council of Michigan Foundations and has a line-up of fabulous presenters. 

The ability to assess and evaluate social impact investments — i.e., program-related investments, mission-related or -driven investments, social and development impact bonds, individual impact investments and blended deals — is in its adolescence. While a small subset of the professional evaluation community is engaged and making significant contributions to social impact measures, the talent and expertise of evaluators remains underutilized. Evaluative thinking can enhance the quality, rigor, and thus, the credibility of the social impacts investors and investees seek.

The three-part series focuses on the three program phases (planning, implementation, and recalibration), and how evaluators can use their skills in each phase. Speakers represent institutional and individual investors and experienced impact investing evaluators. Both new and experienced professionals in the social impact investing sector will come away from each session with examples of ways evaluators and investors can work together, ideas for evaluative elements to include at a particular phase of an investment, and examples of social impact investments being made.

Clink on the links below to get more information and to register:

         11:00 AM – 12:15 p.m. EDT

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

AEA Silent Auction to Benefit Traveling Presenters 

The Silent Auction is an annual event sponsored by the International Cross-Cultural Evaluation (ICCE) TIG held on Friday night of the AEA Evaluation 2019 conference. This year, the Silent Auction will be held on Friday, November 15, 2019, at 6:45 p.m. (please refer to the AEA conference program for the exact room/venue).

The money raised at the Silent Auction is used 100% to provide travel grants to first-time attendees from developing countries presenting at the AEA conference. The AEA Board matches the funds raised, doubling the pot for travel grants.

The items at the Silent Auction are donated by AEA conference attendees from around the world, evaluation associations/societies (AEA, AES, and CES), training institutes (e.g., The Evaluators' Institute, Claremont Evaluation Center), publishing companies, and authors of evaluation books. Additionally, your evaluation gurus donate an hour of their time ─ which you can also bid on to have impactful discussions with them.

The Silent Auction is an excellent networking event. You are encouraged to bring something to donate and also bid. It is a unique one-stop event. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to email


 Experience Evaluation 2019 from the Comfort of Your Home or Office

Virtual Conference Registration is Now Open! 

Attending Evaluation 2019 in person is a great opportunity to learn and network with your peers, but if you can’t join us in Minneapolis, AEA offers another solution – the Virtual Conference!

Last year, evaluators from more than 65 countries joined us virtually. Consider registering for our 2019 Virtual Conference experience to connect with peers from across the globe and to:

  • Live-stream Evaluation 2019 Presidential Strand Plenaries
  • Receive three-month access to recorded Presidential Strand sessions and all four plenary sessions after the conference
  • Enjoy valuable evaluation content without the hassle of travel expenses

The Virtual Conference costs $50 for members and $100 for non-membersSecure your spot today!

Participate in the International Buddy Program During the Evaluation 2019 Conference

AEA welcomes all international evaluators to attend Evaluation 2019, AEA's Annual Conference, to be held in Minneapolis, on November 11-16, 2019! 

The International Program (IBP)

In line with its growing internationalization, AEA, in close collaboration with the International and Cross-Cultural Evaluation (ICCE) TIG, is glad to sponsor the International Buddy Program (IBP) for the seventh year in a row. 

If you are an international participant: Once you have registered for Evaluation 2019, and if you are interested in linking with an evaluator based in the U.S., please do the following:

  1. Fill out the IBP enrollment form
  2. E-mail it back to Michele Tarsilla (IBP Coordinator) by October 1, 2019
  3. If you are a U.S.-based evaluator: Once you have registered for Evaluation 2019, if you are interested in liaising with an international participant and you have attended a conference in the past, please fill out the form here and e-mail it to Michele Tarsilla (IBP Coordinator) at by October 1, 2019.

To learn more about the International Buddy Program, visit the information guide online.

We look forward to getting to know you at AEA 2019 and we hope that IBP will contribute to a terrific conference experience!


AEA Town Halls


The AEA Board of Directors would like the opportunity to engage more with AEA members and discuss a variety of strategic and visionary topics with the membership. The virtual Town Hall approach allows a regular opportunity to pose strategic  questions and topics to the membership for input. See past webinars and keep an eye out for upcoming webinars, like the one below: 

AEA Town Hall: The International Scene

 The AEA’s international engagement is of strategic importance for our members and the organization as a whole. Join us Wednesday, Oct. 9 in this Town Hall to understand the international evaluation landscape (networks, VOPEs, other partners) from the AEA perspective, explore why we are involved internationally, what we (the AEA) bring to international engagement, and how our international engagement benefits our members and other AEA activities. AEA President Tessie Catsambas will interview Cindy Clapp Wincek, Donna Podems and Scott Chaplowe, three of the 12 members of the AEA’s International Working Group (IWG) who represent us internationally and help us manage our engagement. Cindy is our Representative to the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), Donna is the IWG Chair, and Scott represents us in the EvalParters Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) network.

Register here!


GovDATAx Special Policy Partner Communications Kit 


The Data Coalition is hosting the premier event on government data policy in Washington, D.C.: GovDATAx, October 30. Join leaders in evidence-based policy and data-driven government —including former House Speaker Paul Ryan, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, and Department of Commerce Deputy Director Karen Dunn Kelley — to discuss how we can unleash government data for the public good.

Visit for registration and more information. 

Use promo code PARTNER35 at checkout and receive 35% off all tickets.


AEA Professional Development Corner 

On-Demand Resources Available

From the AEA Education Team 

The Digital Knowledge Hub is an online platform featuring professional development opportunities for evaluators, by evaluators. See eStudies available for purchase like the ones below. 

AEA eStudies: Something for Everyone

In-depth eStudy courses offer a deep dive into top-of-mind evaluation themes and topics. Open to both members and nonmembers alike, eStudies provide a diverse learning experience where collaboration is encouraged. Take a look at some sessions perfect for young evaluators and students. Not a beginner? We've rounded up some of our most popular eStudies you don't want to miss! 

Student eStudies:

Popular eStudies:


Take a Coffee Break with AEA:

Coffee Breaks are 20 minute presentations that provide insights into niche topics impacting evaluation practice and introduce new tools to evaluators. Coffee Breaks are offered exclusively to AEA members. If you are not a member, learn more here.
You can also access past Coffee Breaks though the Digital Knowledge Hub - Coffee Breaks.

Events of Interest

Events for AEA Members, Suggested by AEA Members

In this section, we spotlight events that may be of interest to the AEA community, as suggested by fellow members. Please note these events are not sponsored by AEA. If you would like to suggest an upcoming event, email Cady Stokes, AEA newsletter editor, at


Thank You to Our Longstanding Members

 AEA would like to recognize and thank some of its most longstanding members. Click here to view individuals who are celebrating 5+, 10+, 20+ and 30+ years with the association this month!


Welcome to Our New Members

 AEA would like to welcome those who have recently joined the association. Click here to view a list of AEA's newest members.

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