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2-for-1 Week: Leah Goldstein Moses on Community responsiveness in organizational evaluation approaches

I’m Leah Goldstein Moses, Founder and CEO of The Improve Group and adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. At the beginning of 2015, four issues converged towards a specific direction that has informed our work over the year:

  1. Our recently-formed Advisory Board highlighted the importance of equity, disparities, and community needs in evaluation.
  2. We began exploring how we could recruit and retain people from more diverse backgrounds to practice evaluation.
  3. EvalPartners led a successful campaign to have 2015 declared the Year of Evaluation, with special emphasis on equity-focused and gender-responsive
  4. AEA announced its annual conference theme: Exemplary Evaluations in a Multicultural World

In response, we formed an internal working group focused on improving our responsiveness and reducing bias in our work, both in our internal practices and in our consulting projects. Over the course of our exploration, it became clear that our evaluation work uses an approach that we’ve come to call community responsive – recognizing and responding to the diversity within communities to make sure multiple perspectives are heard when evaluating programs, policies, and systems.

The primary features we’ve identified are:

  • Engage community members as advisors
  • Identify and enlist community experts to contribute to and lead aspects of the evaluation
  • Use multiple methods of data collection and analysis
  • Use a multi-phased, iterative approach that allows you to layer learning from multiple community members

For example, in a study to examine long term care offered to people who have disabilities or who are aging, we attended meetings with existing advisory groups to develop ideas to recruit and engage people for the study. The resulting approach gave participants a variety of ways to contribute perspectives (online survey, discussion board, in-person focus groups, etc.). Each option offered accommodations, such as interpreters at the focus groups and screen-reader friendly online materials.

We plan to explore this further at upcoming conferences, such as the Minnesota International NGO Network IDEA Summit and the American Evaluation Association Evaluation 2015 Conference.

Rad resource: Our approach is influenced by equity-focused practitioners. We found this guide to be particularly thorough and accessible, and have been grateful to participate in the webinar series on equity-focused evaluation by ¡Milwaukee Evaluation!

Rad resource: As we further refine our ideas about community-responsive evaluation, we plan to write about it on our blog.

Rad resource: We tested the concept of community-responsive evaluation with Minnesota researchers; the presentation and discussion are available online.

We’re celebrating 2-for-1 Week here at aea365. With tremendous interest in the blog lately, we’ve had many authors eager to share their evaluation wisdom, so for one special week, readers will be treated to two blog posts per day! Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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