Wayfinding is an ancient process for navigating unfamiliar territory towards an intended destination. It encompasses physical and mental processes, tools, and strategies we can use to identify cues, interpret our surroundings, and navigate through complex spaces. At aes24, we will seek cues about evaluation across four areas. We will explore our destination: evaluation that contributes to societal and planetary wellbeing. We invite critical inquiry about the footprints of evaluation considering equity, decolonisation and the environment. We will discuss and share evaluation tools, their role, benefits, and risks. Finally, we consider the journey itself, how we learn and adapt in complex settings, shift the way we show up, and determine what skills, knowledge, and expertise we need today and in the future.

Destination - evaluation that adds value for people and planet

We begin with the end in mind – evaluation that adds value. In this challenging global context, what (and whose) purposes does evaluation serve? What are the characteristics of evaluations that add value? How is evaluation unpacking structural and systemic problems and contributing to efforts to improve societal and planetary wellbeing? How is this affecting the definition and positioning of evaluation? What are the emerging examples of evaluators working in collaborative and systems-informed ways? 

Footprints - critical inquiry about the legacy of our work

What footprints do we, or should we leave behind as we work? Climate change, loss of biodiversity, systemic inequity, structural racism, and colonisation are part of our collective landscape. How do we ensure that we are not compounding inequities or environmental harm through evaluation? How do we embed self-determination and respect sovereignty of land and data? How can we make space to grieve the losses that have occurred due to harmful evaluations? How can we share and learn together, whilst respecting different lifeworlds? 

Tools – the role, benefits and risks of new and old tools

For thousands of years First Nations People have used traditional and innovative tools to navigate toward thriving cultures and country. In the last decade, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking us into unchartered digital landscapes. How are advanced technologies like AI affecting evaluation? What “old” tools do we need to preserve or let go? What ethical principles and obligations do different tools raise? Do we control the tools, or do they control us?

Journey – how we learn and adapt together

The wayfinding journey involves learning, adapting, and sharing knowledge to navigate across unfamiliar territory. Indigenous communities successfully evaluated and passed down learnings over tens of thousands of years. How can we as individuals, organisations, and as a profession contribute to a clear and coherent journey of learning, teaching, and reflection for evaluation? How can we learn and adapt in such complex settings? How might we shift the way we show up? What skills, knowledge, and expertise do we need today and in the future? How have we helped each other transform and advance?