Eleanor Chelimsky Forum
Through the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Eastern Evaluation Research Society (EERS) launched the Eleanor Chelimsky Forum on Evaluation Theory and Practice at the 2013 Conference.
The genesis of the Forum was a paper titled, Balancing Theory and Practice in the Real World, authored by Eleanor Chelimsky for the 2012 EERS Annual Conference. Recognizing the interdependence of evaluation theory and practice for developing best practices and the often divergent views of theorists and practitioners, Chelimsky recommended that a forum be established to mediate the divide between “principle and context.” Her vision was that theory and practice would inform each other and, “in that learning process, both would be inspired to stretch, to bend a little, to grow,” thereby adding “breadth, depth and realism to our work.”
In 2012, the EERS Board of Directors voted to establish the Eleanor Chelimsky Forum as an annual conference event. Subsequently, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation generously approved funding for the Forum through 2017.
About The Forum
In keeping with Eleanor Chelimsky’s original intent, the goal of the Forum was to surface, examine, and offer responses to important issues raised by evaluation theorists and practitioners. The Forum was the centerpiece of the EERS Conference from 2013-2017. Each 90-minute plenary session featured well-known colleagues in the evaluation field who discussed new or persistent problems in the fit between theory and practice, including proposals for resolution of the problems. Audience interaction was a significant part of the Forum, with discussions reflecting a tone of “respectful inquiry.” As Chelimsky wrote, “If we are successful balancing the two, both theory and practice will be changed.”
About Eleanor Chelimsky
From 1980 to 1994, Eleanor Chelimsky directed the Program Evaluation and Methodology Division of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Her tenure was influential in shaping the public agenda, producing nearly 300 evaluations of government policies and programs for Congress, as well as developing and demonstrating new methods for evaluation. During her public service career, Chelimsky served as United States Assistant Comptroller General, as President of the American Evaluation Association, and as President of the Evaluation Research Society. She was an economic and statistical analyst at NATO, a research manager at the MITRE Corporation, and studied in Paris as a Fulbright Scholar.
Eleanor wrote and published extensively on evaluation theory and practice, and its relationship to public policy. As shared by the American Evaluation Association, “During her tenure, Eleanor generated over 300 evaluations of government policies and programs for congress and developed new methods for evaluation.
Eleanor received many awards for her work, including GAO’s top honor, “The Comptroller General’s Award” for unparalleled contributions in developing innovative approaches to evaluate the effects of government programs and fostering their use by GAO and decision makers in the United States and abroad, and the American Eagle Award from President George H.W. Bush. Later in her career, she worked as an independent consultant for evaluation policy, practice and methodology and was a member of AEA’s Evaluation Policy Task Force. Her work included projects for the U.S. Public Health Service, the European Commission, the World Bank, the National Academy of Public Administration and others. Eleanor worked and contributed to the field of evaluation well into her 90s. The American Evaluation Association shared that “she published a consultation piece on global warming three months prior to her death” in March 2022.
Chelimsky Forum Speakers
George Grob, Center for Public Program Evaluation
Melvin Mark, Pennsylvania State University (Discussant)
Stafford Hood, Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment
Nicole R. Bowman, Bowman Performance Consulting (Discussant)
Abraham Wandersman, University of South Carolina
Mary Dixon-Woods, University of Leicester (Discussant)
Debra Rog, Westat
Michael Quinn Patton, Independent Organizational Development Consultant
Thomas Schwandt, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
The Forum content has been preserved in YouTube videos, manuscript publications, and AEA webinars.
Videos documenting presentations of Chelimsky Forum speakers are available on the EERS YouTube channel.
Each Chelimsky Forum speaker also prepared a manuscript for publication in American Journal of Evaluation.