Panel Presentation on Impact Evaluations


Northeastern University’s Public Evaluation Lab (a collaboration between the Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice Research and the Institute for Race and Justice) and the Greater Boston Evaluation Network co-sponsored a panel presentation on impact evaluations on February 5th at Northeastern University.  This collaboration brought together five internal and external evaluation leaders who have recently implemented Randomized Control Trials or quasi-experimental impact evaluations.

The presentation explored what drives the decision to engage in an impact evaluation, how to choose methodology, lessons learned about communicating results, and how barriers of implementing this evaluation method.  The panel was attended by Northeastern faculty, staff, and students as well as members from a wide range of Boston area community organizations.


Laura Senier is an Assistant Professor in Sociology and Anthropology and Health Sciences.  Her research interests include the sociology of medicine and public health, community environmental health, and environmental justice.  Dr. Senier’s research, The Health Effects of Access to Green and Blue Spaces in Urban Environments will pilot methods to assess exposure to green and blue spaces and explore how these recreational amenities are associated with overall health, emotional health, and well-being among teens in several Boston neighborhoods.  The terms green and blue spaces are drawn from the literature on therapeutic landscapes; the former is generally taken to mean parks, playgrounds, and open space, while the latter is taken to mean rivers, streams, and beaches.  There is a large and growing body of literature that suggests that exposure to green space is beneficial for a range of health outcomes, especially mental health; while blue space has not been studied as extensively, it is a logical next frontier in this current of research.

Dr. Laura Cordisco Tsai, is a social work researcher and practitioner specializing in human trafficking and gender-based violence (GBV). Her research broadly targets the development of more empowering and effective services for people who have been trafficked, with a specific focus on strengthening economic empowerment and re/integration support programming for human trafficking survivors in Southeast Asia.  In 2016, Dr. Cordisco Tsai completed a participatory assessment of Eleison Foundation’s savings and financial capability program for survivors of human trafficking and their family members in the Philippines utilizing photovoice. In this study, survivors were active partners throughout the entire research process — including data collection, analysis, and dissemination. Study findings were utilized to strengthen Eleison’s programming. She is currently conducting another photovoice study focusing on the meaning of economic empowerment to human trafficking and GBV survivors in the Philippines. The findings from this study will be utilized to ensure that economic empowerment services provided by a local partner organization are implemented in a way that is consistent with the goals and priorities of survivors themselves.

Dr. Balvanz has over a decade of experience leading complex public health research and cultural immersion programs internationally and domestically. His research background includes international program design, training, implementation and management, quality assurance, qualitative and quantitative research design and analysis, and community engagement. Dr. Balvanz was part of a team that did an Action Oriented Community Diagnosis in Caswell County North Carolina. Through literature review and key informant interviews the community thought childhood obesity was the most pressing problem in the community. They recruited 7 adolescent girls to participate across four sessions of photovoice. Among the various determinants participants thought there was: lack of access to health foods; community disrepair increased their fear and prevented them from walking in areas of their community. They believed they needed more mentors. Results were presented at the University of North Carolina and to a forum of community advocates and middle schoolers. The team applied and received funding to conduct a town walkability assessment wherein participants were paired with senior citizens to conduct the assessment. Results were presented to city council and given to the Town Manager. Subsequent funding was received to build an inter-generational community garden.

Northeastern University’s Public Evaluation’s Former Executive Director, Laurie Dopkins was the moderator of the panel.

panel presentation




Left to right: Laurie Dopkins, Laura Senier,
Laura Cordisco Tsai, Peter Balvanz

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