For students

  • To compete for prizes and recognition of excellence.
  • To gain visibility that can lead to summer work and other opportunities. 
  • To obtain first hand experience in evaluative analysis and reporting under the pressure of tight deadlines.
  • To broaden capacity for effective team interaction.
  • To request academic credit for participation (many professors will recognize participation as an excellent learning opportunity.)

For professors

  • To give students a practical experience in program evaluation.
  • To use the Competition as a focal point for instruction on evaluation theory and practice.
  • To demonstrate interest in evaluation use and impact.

For supporters

  • To be recognized as a supporter of excellence in evaluative analysis and communication.
  • To promote bilingualism and cross-disciplinary thinking.
  • To recruit from a pool of bright, energetic, outgoing students when recruiting.
  • To have the students examine a case that will address questions of interest to the organization.


The Formative Years, 1996 to 2000

The First Competition - 1996

The idea for the Case Competition arose in 1995. The National Capital Chapter of the CES had been operating the Student Essay Contest for many years and was looking for additional ways to involve students in program evaluation.

Board member Michael Obrecht offered two suggestions. One was to organize formal debates where teams from local high schools would compete in debating opposite sides of an evaluation issue. The other was to have teams of university students compete in analysing an evaluation case and presenting their assessment. The Board preferred the “case competition” idea.

Michael then got to work organizing a first competition. He sent letters to organizations asking for suggestions of a case. An official in the Department of Finance suggested a recent study on the relationship between the incidence of smuggling and the taxation of cigarettes and alcohol. Next, he asked the deans of management-related faculties at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University to suggest the names of professors who might be willing to organize student teams. Working with one of the named professors, Michael developed criteria for judging the competition and then recruited three judges from the local evaluation community. A major consulting company, Price Waterhouse, responded to a request to support the competition and paid for a magnificent crystal trophy. Space was booked at the University of Ottawa and the event was promoted there and at Carleton University. On the day of the first competition, the participating students were enthusiastic and well prepared for five hours of concentrated work on the case. About 25 people showed up to observe the proceedings. After the teams had presented their analyses, the authors of the study on smuggling and taxation answered questions from the audience. Then everyone moved to a reception to enjoy drinks, snacks and conversation while awaiting the decision of the judges. The crystal trophy was awarded to the winning team and the first Case Competition was complete.

Second Competition - 1997

In 1997, the first case completion organizing committee was formed, comprised of Michael, Nancy Porteous and one of the first student competitors – Blair Haddock. The group decided to expand the competition, opening it to students from universities across Canada. Since it would be impractical to have a large number of teams travelling to Ottawa for the competition, the organizers came up with the idea of a “play-off” in which the teams would analyze a first evaluation case at their home university, prepare a written submission and then submit it to the organizers by fax within a fixed time limit. Judges would rate the written submissions. The teams that prepared the top three would be invited to Ottawa for a final round.

The organizers ensured that all competition materials were made available in both French and English. They also began raising funds to subsidize the travel costs of teams that were coming to Ottawa from a distance.

Third and Fourth Competitions – 1998 to 1999

During this period the organizing committee continued to expand under Nancy’s guidance. Many of the new organizers had participated in past competitions and all were enthusiastic about helping it grow and improve. In 1998 the organizers published a first article on the Case Competition.

For the 1999 competition, the prize for the winning team was free registration at the CES annual conference. That year the conference was held in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The students, all from Guelph University, rented a van and drove from Ontario to Newfoundland for the event. They enlivened the conference with their youthfulness, vitality and intense interest in evaluation.

Fifth Competition - 2000

The positive impact of the Guelph team led to the idea of locating the final round of the 2000 competition at the CES conference in Montreal. The three teams would have a larger audience for their presentations and the conference programme would be enhanced by the event.

2008 Onward

To help ensure the long-term viability of the Case Competition, Nancy proposed that the CES National Council take over responsibility for the event from the National Capital Chapter. She also recommended that the competition become an integral part of subsequent CES conferences. Her proposals were approved by the CES Council in 2008. The competition has thrived ever since thanks to the solid foundation that Nancy and Michael put in place and the continuing dedication of volunteer organizers, coaches, student teams and judges. The financial and in-kind contributions of sponsors have been essential to the enduring presence of the competition in Canada. Now more than 100 students from varied disciplines compete each year. They come from all regions of Canada. We’ve had a team from a distance education program who completed round together via distance. We’ve had a team of Canadian students studying in the United States. And we’ve had a good mix of English, French and bilingual teams.