LAWG Week: Diversifying the field of evaluation by Veronica Deenanath and Erica Orton

This is Veronica Deenanath, Evaluation Specialist at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, and Erica Orton, Learning and Evaluation Manager at the Bush Foundation. We are Board members for the Minnesota Evaluation Association (MNEA) and co-chairs for the MNEA Scholarship committee.

With Evaluation 2019 being in Minneapolis, the MNEA Board was intentional in wanting to provide opportunities to under-represented evaluators to participate in the conference, and to diversify both MNEA and AEA membership. Preference for under-representative groups included people of color, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQI, students, and first-time AEA conference attendees. We also wanted to provide representation for evaluators from greater Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and the Native Nations that share these geographies. With these goals in mind, the MNEA Board applied for a Bush Foundation Grant in 2018 and was fortunate to receive the grant in 2019.

With the generous support and guidance from the Bush Foundation, we were able to design a rigorous selection process to review the applications.

Hot Tips:

  • Implement multiple rounds of reviews with different sets of reviewers. Our first round had three external reviewers for each application. Finalists were scored by MNEA Board members.
  • Ensure at least three reviewers should score each application in each round of the review process.
  • Provide training to all reviewers to ensure shared understanding of the review process. In the training we included the following guidelines:
    • Consider your own biases. Do you naturally want to give preference to a certain group or have an inclination to be harder on another group? Check your biases – positive or negative.
    • The quality of writing should not be a factor. We are assessing content, not writing proficiency.
    • Consider an applicant’s demographics in the context of how they answer the criteria questions, but do not give preference to an applicant based solely on their demographics (age, race, geography, etc.). Applicants will be prioritized by the additional considerations at the final selection phase.
    • Do not compare each application in your pool. Review each application based on the selection criteria.
    • Read a few of the applications before you start scoring.
    • This is an art, not a science. Please try to make your best judgment based on their fit with the criteria, but we recognize it is subjective.
  • De-identify the applications for the review process.

We are excited to report that we had over 80 applications and were able to award 41 scholarships to evaluators to attend the 2019 AEA conference! We welcome these individuals to Evaluation 2019 and invite you to engage in conversations about diversifying our field.

We’re looking forward to the fall and the Evaluation 2019  conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to

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