In an era of discord and mistrust, where facts are heavily debated through ideological lenses and where people have difficulty finding common ground, the role of evaluation is to provide trusted, credible, evidence-based, and balanced conclusions about the quality, importance and value of what is relevant in our society. For example, we have witnessed steps backward with the questioning of science, leading to the March for Science but we have also seen progress and steps forward with the recent adoption of the bipartisan legislation on evidence-informed policy making by the U.S. Congress. Meanwhile, the international evaluation community has advanced towards a global evaluation agenda focused on building strong national evaluation systems, and incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in its methods and practice. Thus, some evidence-based frontiers have emerged in the post-truth era.

This is an invitation for conversations among all AEA members—evaluators, evaluation users, instructors and students of evaluation, evaluation scholars and thought leaders—on the evaluation profession’s path forward. Building the future of the evaluation practice begins with an assessment and appreciation of the past and present contribution of evaluation to society and a consideration of the current societal issues and where we need to bring leadership. We then look ahead to see how we can evolve for the renewal of our profession, carving a path to the future of evaluation. These three elements exemplify an appreciative framework and follow the Appreciative Inquiry model – by identifying times where we have been at our best, we are able to learn about our strengths, gain confidence, and build momentum to imagine and create the best paths to the future.

We, as a profession, aspire to bring calm competence, reflect and learn through experience, and strive for excellent evaluations that inform individuals about the effectiveness and efficiency of important public and private programs. Our role as evaluators is to increase our society’s capacity, both international and national, to make better decisions based on credible evidence.

AEA President Tessie Catsambas