Warmest welcome from Jennifer Birch-Jones (pronouns: she/her/hers) and Benoît Gauthier (he/him/his), co-chairs of the 2021 Canadian Evaluation Society (CES) Conference! We are excited to invite you to our virtual conference proceedings on May 10, 12, and 14, 2021 and our virtual workshops from May 3 to 7, 2021. 

Since launching our conference planning efforts, the world has changed and we have had to adapt. In light of the important public health issues we continue to face and our commitment to reducing the environmental footprint of our activities, we (CES, C2021 and the CES-NCC Host Chapter) decided to postpone the 2020 CES conference to the Spring of 2021 and to transform it into a virtual event. Our volunteers have been very hard at work planning for a successful first ever virtual event that is relevant, engaging, stimulating, and welcoming. 

The CES annual conference should be a key moment in the lives of Canadian evaluators. Now more than ever, it is a time to take stock, to reflect, to debate, to challenge, to learn, to connect, and to reconnect. In 2021, we will also be welcoming evaluators from Latin America, from the United States and from around the world to enrich our conversations, and expand our connections through renewing acquaintances and making new ones with our evaluation colleagues.

Evaluation utilization has become the ultimate value for many evaluators who consider that evaluation information has no purpose if it does not get used. But this position has been challenged by evaluators who emphasize process over product, by those who wonder how evaluation gets used and at what cost, and by those who question whose interests are served by evaluation information. C2021 still aims to explore the sub-themes of Positioning utilization, Achieving utilization, and Questioning utilization, to which we have added two new sub-themes of particular relevance to the current situation: Impact of the pandemic on utilization, and Marginalization and utilization. Evaluation utilization is complex and nuanced, but we are hoping that our understanding of it will be enhanced as a result of the C2021 Conference.

Since early 2018 when we started organizing this conference, we have wanted it to be values-driven. Building on the great work done by the C2019 Organizing Committee, our values are:

  • bilingualism because Canada is a country with two official languages, English and French, and the CES itself is an officially bilingual organization;
  • equity, diversity, and inclusion whereby we recognize that not everyone starts from the same place, and that advantages and barriers exist; 
  • active reconciliation which allows us to actively acknowledge and support the self-determination of Indigenous peoples and take further steps to explore what meaningful reconciliation will look like; and
  • environmental sustainability comprising our commitment to eliminating the “footprint” of the major categories of resource consumption that previous conferences worked to reduce and/or mitigate, such as: venue, hotel, transportation, catering, and print communications. 

We believe that by living these values, the C2021 Conference can serve as a model for a values-based approach to planning and organizing ground-breaking conferences going forward.

We are very excited about the C2021 Conference and very much hope you will join us for the evaluative conversations on May 10, 12, and 14, 2021, and our learning workshops the week prior, May 3-7, 2021.