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Cultural Competence Week: Lisa Aponte-Soto on the Benefits of Networks for Building Culturally Responsive Practices

Hello! I’m Lisa Aponte-Soto, a member of the AEA Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation Dissemination Working Group, the AEA Graduate Diversity Internship Program (GEDI) 2009-2010 cohort, and the National Program Deputy Director of the RWJF New Connections at the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning.

Latinas/os comprise the fastest growing U.S. population, but represent only 5% of AEA members with the majority being categorized as graduate students or early careerist (AEA 2007/2008 Internal Scan Report). In response to this underrepresentation, a cadre of Latina/o evaluators (myself included) has convened sessions at Evaluation 2013 and 2014 centered on the importance of building Latina/o leadership trajectories to sustain culturally responsive evaluation (CRE) practices that attend to the heterogeneity of Latina/o communities.

As a first step, we established the Latina/o Responsive Evaluation Discourse (LA RED) Network to increase the leadership pipeline of Latinas/os in the evaluation profession and create a community of practice to promote critical discourse on Latina/o-responsive evaluation practices by Latina/o evaluators and evaluators working in partnership with Latina/o-serving initiatives.

Networks increase the capacity of culturally responsive evaluators by providing career and professional development for emerging Latina/o evaluators. Networks also facilitate a supportive environment for mentorship.

Network membership fosters a community of practice of thought leaders that contributes to formal and informal knowledge sharing and enhances collective learning to enact LRE practices. The discourse that evolves from the engagement of Latino/a evaluators and cross-cultural partners working with Latina/o communities/programs nurtures relationships and builds a sense of community, trust, and ownership. Collaborative partnerships set the stage for ongoing dialogue to expand on Latino critical theory and inform Latino-focused frameworks, methods and practices.

Through shared goals rooted in social justice and diversity, networks like LA RED leverage collective social capital and balance power differentials to advocate for CRE practices that attend to multiple Latina/o-specific contexts. Thus, networks encourage accountability to practice evaluation with a culturally responsive lens to maximize the benefits of Latina/o-serving communities and programs.

Hot Tip: Latina/o graduate students and professionals can benefit from AEA evaluation traineeships like the Graduate Education Diversity Internship or the Minority Serving Institution Fellowship.

Rad Resources:

New Connections is an RWJF sponsored program providing support through grantmaking, career development, and mentoring to historically underrepresented junior faculty and midcareer consultants. The program employs a network of diverse researchers and consultants who inform RWJF programming through high-quality research and evaluation that addresses the nation’s health and health care problems.


The Latina Researchers Network provides ongoing mentoring support, employment opportunities, and professional resources including webinars on scholarly evidence-based knowledge sharing and talent development. The Network is available to both men and women online and through social media portals.


This week, we’re diving into issues of Cultural Competence in Evaluation with AEA’s Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation Dissemination Working Group. 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


1 comment

  • Veronica Olazabal, Nuru International · November 21, 2014 at 6:41 am

    Thanks for sharing, as a Latina in the evaluation space, I am glad to learn this network exits. I think the challenge for promoting and further cultivating Latina/o’s perspectives and thought leadership in the evaluation sector is that professional networks, such as AEA for example, offer diversity opportunities for early career and academic professional but not practitioners no longer affiliated with an academic institution. This could be an area to further explore at some point.


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