We are at a defining moment, one where we no longer have the luxury of time. More than five million people have perished from Covid-19, poverty has increased for the first time since 1998 with 70-100 million people estimated to have been pushed into extreme poverty, hundreds of millions have lost their livelihoods, and the earth’s temperature is well on its way to passing its point of no return.
The time for change is now. Evaluators, we have a responsibility to act with urgency to help transform the systems, policies, and practices that have created today’s challenges, and help build toward a more equitable, sustainable future.
In 2022, the year of the Tiger, you are invited to bring your unique evaluation skills, competencies, and perspectives to (re) shaping evaluation together. For this conference, we seek to create a space to explore three significant shifts that are disrupting evaluation practice, and that will influence how our field theorizes and applies evaluation to evidence-informed decision making:
Why these areas?
Equity, social justice, and decolonization. The unjust and untimely death of George Floyd at the hands of police in 2020 reignited critical discussions on equity, social justice and decolonization. As evaluators, we must ask ourselves how we can bring in-depth understanding of systemic oppression to our work. What would it look like to move beyond reporting on disparities and disproportionalities, toward a broader, authentic reconsideration of our profession and practice? How must we challenge our own epistemological and ontological foundations to emerge in a new place that is more equitable?
New actors and social finance. We’re seeing an emergence of new actors and social finance actors that are or could be commissioning evaluation. There is more than 715 billion dollars per year that is directed to “doing good,” outside of traditional government finance. The “impact” of these dollars goes largely unaccounted for or are superficially assessed, creating what has come to be known as “impact washing”. As evaluators, there is an opportunity to consider how we can add-value to holding new players accountable for their impacts on people and the planet. What would it look like if all investors (e.g. government, private sector, impact investors and high net worth individuals etc.) were held to account for their positive, negative, intended and unintended consequences on society?
Digital data and technology. As evaluators, we must ensure we remain relevant in this new, data-rich and tech-oriented world. In 2021 alone, the world’s internet users are expected to spend ~12 trillion hours online which translates to more than 1.3 billion years of combined human time. These new data sources, data types, and data tools have material influence on the landscape for evaluation. How do these trends affect our evaluation practice? What new issues emerge that must be considered for evaluation theory and practice? What becomes easier? What becomes harder?
These three areas are often approached and addressed with siloed, vertical thinking which limits comprehensive, holistic and systematic solutions. Evaluation 2022 invites you to move beyond these artificial barriers and consider how to integrate, reconsider and reimagine a new future together. It prompts us all to cultivate genuine relationships and thinking that allow us to reach across our own schools of thoughts, personal communities and networks with humility and curiosity. Questions that will run through these groups are:
- What implications do these areas of work collectively have on evaluation theory and practice?
- Where are the bright stars that show us a new, more integrated, way forward?
- How should we rethink our own role and personal biases, particularly in creating harm, throughout the evaluation lifecycle?
- Who are the new actors and players in these spaces and how does that shift the what, how and why of evaluation?
- What new risks should we (evaluators) be considering as these areas continue to evolve?
We look forward to seeing you in New Orleans in 2022.
The 2022 AEA Presidential Strand Committee,
Ayesha Boyce, Shawna Hoffman, Thomas Archibald, Veronica Olazabal