Florida's 19th District
Cindy Banyai was born in Michigan to teen-aged parents and grew up watching them work hard to make a better life through love and education. She has loved politics and current events from a young age, running for her first public office, precinct delegate, at age 18. She then went on to college to study international relations and psychology, firmly believing it necessary to understand the big and the small. From there, Cindy set off to explore the world, living, working, and studying in Asia, winding up with a doctorate. Home and love called from there and, she moved to Southwest Florida, married her high school sweetheart, and started their family. The Banyais now have three kids, a house, a cat, and many wonderful friends here where they live and work.
Dr. Cindy Banyai is the founder and Principal Consultant of Banyai Evaluation and Consulting, LLC. She also teaches in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Florida Gulf Coast University. Dr. Banyai received her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan, where her research focused on community development, public administration, evaluation, and governance. Her works have been published in peer-reviewed journals and she has published, edited, and contributed to several books on public administration and community development.
Dr. Banyai has worked in the field of community development since 2000, exercising skills such as facilitation, research and reporting, and participatory engagement practices. In 2012, she joined a start-up nonprofit as its first Executive Director to develop the organization’s infrastructure and practice to provide housing and services to homeless families. She gained valuable insights about poverty, housing, and homelessness, while conducting research and evaluation for the organization and participating in local resource networks and advocacy groups.
She received the Donald W. Littrell New Professional Award in 2015 from the Community Development Society for her work on regional initiatives at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and for her commitment to community-based advocacy organizations such as BikeWalkLee. Dr. Banyai continues to serve the field of community development as the President of the Community Development Society and representative to the United Nations for International Association for Community Development, an NGO with UN consultative status.
Evidence of Dr. Banyai’s advocacy of evaluation and its use is found in the increased evaluation capacity of nonprofits she has coached and the progress that has been made in data-based decision-making in collaborative initiatives. She also worked to institutionalize evaluation in governments and nonprofits around the world through technical assistance for the Japan International Cooperation Agency. There she helped national and local government actors in Nepal, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Greater Africa, Tunisia, and Chile. In recognition of her evaluation work, she received the 2018 Evaluation Advocacy and Use Practice Award from the American Evaluation Association.