Evaluation has never been more exciting, yet challenging. Our context is changing at a dizzying rate.There is an ongoing and urgent need to move towards culturally safe, appropriate and relevant evaluations that contribute to better outcomes for Indigenous peoples. There is an increasing appetite from funders to explore how innovation can solve some of our most complex social and environmental challenges. Governments are embracing these new approaches and demanding real time evidence of what is working.Philanthropy and not-for-profits are transforming too. At the same time new players are doing the work traditionally associated with evaluation, in innovative ways, with access to more data than ever before. In this context, it is critical that evaluation transforms to remain relevant, meet the market and meaningfully contribute to the changing face of Australasia.

We invite you to explore this changing context and what it might mean for you and the areas in which you work with our aes2018 conference theme: transformations.

As we explore what these transformations mean for the role of evaluation and evaluators, we hope to equip you with new questions, networks and ways of thinking. Join us in helping shape the future of evaluation in this changing context.


The 2018 Conference has the overall theme of Transformations, with the following sub-themes:

Transformations in diversity and power

Evaluations which fail to critically engage with questions of power and equity can perpetuate inequality. There are increasing calls for evaluators to transform their practice to better address inequality and strengthen cultural capacity. We ask:

  • How are we strengthening and building Indigenous and non-Indigenous capacity in culturally safe evaluation theory, practice and use?
  • What principles and practices are we using to design space for different voices, values and forms of evidence to promote fairness, equity, accessibility and sustainability?
Transformations in digital innovation, big data and user-centred design

Digital technologies, big data and user-centred design offer new possibilities to government, not-for-profit and philanthropic organisations to tackle wicked problems. The growth of augmented and virtual reality, machine learning, big data and artificial intelligence all have implications for the field of evaluation. We ask:

  • What do these transformations offer to the field of evaluation?
  • How can evaluative thinking shape different conversations about design, technology and big data, to help shape a fairer, sustainable future?
Systems transformation

There is an increasing realisation that to address 'wicked' social and environmental problems we need to work beyond single sectors or programs. Adaptive, emergent and systems change initiatives require different ways of evaluating and a greater need for collaboration across sectoral boundaries. We ask:

  • What are we learning about collaborating with unlikely partners and operating at the systems level?
  • How is our practice adapting to work at the system level?
Capability and mindsets

Keeping abreast of current and emerging evaluation practices is part of being a competent evaluator and is one of the components of ethical practice. Other disciplines, such as design, suggest that mindsets (such as empathy, preparedness to fail and hearing what has been said) need to be cultivated as foundational capabilities. While the AES’ evaluation competencies outline a range of skills and knowledge areas, our toolkit is not fixed. We ask:

  • What are the mindsets and capabilities needed by evaluators to keep pace with emerging trends? What does this mean for ethical practice?
  • What new or foundational evaluation tools and techniques are you using that evaluators – new, emerging and more experienced – simply must know about?