WESTIR Limited attended the Australasian Evaluation Society’s (AES) seminar discussing the highlights of the AES 2018 Conference held in Launceston. The theme of the conference was ‘Transformations’. Seminar presenters gave short presentations of their personal highlights and any themes or trends coming out of the conference.


An overview of the 2018 American Evaluation Conference was provided to set the scene. The main themes coming out of this conference included:


The second speaker, Dr Keren Winterford from the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, spoke about her AES 2018 Conference highlights. This included:

  • A keynote presentation called ‘Getting real about transformation: the Blue Marble Evaluation perspective’ by Michael Quinn-Patten which laid the groundwork for the conference. Michael spoke about the difficulty in measuring transformation, but it is a moral imperative as evaluators to do so. The presentation highlighted five calls to action including thinking beyond policies ad programs to system change; global systems as a topic of evaluation; working beyond silos; interdependence rather than independence; and big data analytics and monitoring.
  • Another keynote presentation called ‘Transforming evaluation practice with serious games’ by Polish evaluator Karol Olejniczak encouraged evaluators to reconsider the mental models used in evaluation and the role that mental games can play in this process.
  • A final keynote presentation called ‘Scaling up, out and deep: What we are learning about social innovation for transformation’ by Penny Hagan from the Auckland Co-Design Lab outlined the need to consider policies and laws (scaling up), impacting greater numbers (scaling out) and the surrounding cultural values and beliefs (scaling deep) when undertaking evaluations.
  • Keren then spoke about her presentation ‘The offerings and challenges of transdisciplinary for evaluation’. She emphasised the need to work across disciplines during the evaluation process and the need to value different forms of knowledge, including Indigenous knowledge systems.


The third speaker, David Wakelin from ARTD Consulting, spoke about learnings from the conference in the area of big data, machine learning and the impact on people. Some of the key points included:

  • The need to remember that data comes from people, so don’t forget them in the process.
  • Data can help you get to insights faster, especially with the help of automated qualitative analytics.
  • Open data is very accessible and a good supplement to your evaluation, but you need to make sure that it is reliable.
  • Let your data start the conversation but not be the conversation. People should always be the centre of your decision making.


The final speaker, Ben Barnes from the NSW Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, focused on the following conference highlights:

  • A presentation called ‘Transforming Evaluation Culture and Systems within the Australian aid program’ by Tracey McMartin from the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Tracey spoke about how a 2011 review found that only a quarter of the department’s evaluation had been completed. There was a need to establish internal systems that facilitated the use of evaluations, including independent committees endorsing workplans, compulsory management responses and an annual implementation plan.
  • A presentation called ‘Evaluation Reports: Writing, editing and wrangling Word’ by Ruth Pitt highlighted a checklist when editing evaluation reports, including the use of tools such as PerfectIt.
  • Ben concluded with a discussion on the proposal to create an evaluator general that would sit within the Department of Treasury. The federal Labor opposition has pledged $5 million to this initiative should they win government at the next election.


All presentations from the AES 2018 Conference are available at the AES Website

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