AEA’s DEI Working Group Week: Introducing the American Evaluation Association’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Working Group by Nisaa Kirtman, Vidhya Shanker, and Elizabeth Taylor-Schiro

Welcome to a week of posts from members of the American Evaluation Association’s (AEA) Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Working Group from its Co-Chairs: Nisaa Kirtman, Vidhya Shanker, and Elizabeth Taylor-Schiro. Below, and throughout the week, we share a bit about the Working Group, our process, what we have done so far, as well as some challenges that we are currently facing and some ways for you to shape the statement, the professional association, the field, and the industries that use evaluation services and products.

Concentric circles conveying AEA's structure
Figure 1

AEA Executive Director Anisha Lewis structured the current DEI Working Group as an appendage of AEA’s staff (see the light blue concentric circle, fifth in from the outside, in Figure 1), rather than its board, so that DEI priorities are not vulnerable to election results (at multiple levels), fluctuations in political climate, and whims of the individuals occupying leadership positions. Additionally rather than appointed or self-identified volunteers, members of the current DEI Working Group are volunteers identified through an application process that involved selection criteria. These criteria applied to the final composition of the group rather than to each individual. They explicitly included a range of experience levels in a deliberate attempt to broaden representation, create leadership paths for new members and emerging evaluators, and avoid amplifying the influence of those who have already had access to leadership opportunities at the expense of those who have not. Similarly, the three of us intentionally co-chair the Working Group to model shared decision-making, broaden decision-making, and represent varied experiences of systemic oppression. We see the Working Group as driven by members, and our job as facilitating group processes rather than leading. In our small and large group meetings, we try to create space to unlearn and undo oppression at multiple ecological levels—internalized, interpersonal, institutional, structural, and environmental.

The Working Group consists of 11 AEA members; four liaisons from the Disabilities & Underrepresented Populations, Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation, LGBTQIA, and Multi-ethnic Issues in Evaluation Topical Interest Groups (TIG); two board liaisons; and two staff members. It organizes its efforts around four charges that come out of recommendations from the 2018 Membership Engagement, Diversity & Leadership Development (MEDLD) report.

Four Charges
  • #1: DEI Statement

To recommend for adoption by the AEA Board a contemporary statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that will frame the operational and governance work of AEA. The statement will define what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to AEA, and address the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the association.

  • #2: Executive Director’s “State of the Association” Report

To review existing indicators and measures of DEI and identify gaps, which will form the basis of the Executive Director’s annual monitoring report on DEI to the Board of Directors. The report will serve as a basis for action plans by BOD and staff.

  • #3: Indicators & Measures

To recommend indicators and measures of DEI relevant to the governance of AEA to be used in future evaluation of board performance.

  • #4: Policies & Procedures 

To systematically examine AEA policies and procedures through a lens of DEI.


In addition to the above charges are two bonuses that keep us busy:

  • To investigate and report on inequity concerns across AEA as they arise;
  • To respond to ad hoc requests for written responses.
Get Involved!

This week’s posts focus on each of the charges. Throughout it, we encourage you to ask, as individuals and as a collective of evaluators and human beings: Who are we? Where do we come from? How did we get here? What do we bring? In whose name do we do this work? Where are we going?

The American Evaluation Association is hosting DEI Week with our colleagues in AEA’s DEI Working Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from working group members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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