AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

May/15

25

Nora Murphy on the intersection of evaluation, social justice, trauma, and healing

Hi, I’m Nora F. Murphy, a developmental evaluator deeply committed to social justice. I recently attended the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute (MESI) Spring Training and Donna Mertens’ workshop on Weaving Social Justice and Evaluation Together. Stimulated by the concepts and conversations I have been reflecting on how social justice appears in my practice and had the following insights:

Lessons Learned:

#1: I actively choose evaluations of projects related to systems change to increase social justice and equity and assumed this was enough. Mertens challenged us to go a step further by placing human rights and social justice at the center. While these elements are always present in my evaluations they are not always at the center.

#2: Where people are working towards social justice and equity there is trauma—individual and community, past and present. Evaluators can ignore this and, I suspect, often do. I realized that my most meaningful evaluations did not ignore this but rather recognized and honored this aspect of people’s experiences.

#3: AEA’s Guiding Principles For Evaluators (2004) states that evaluators bear responsibility for general and public welfare. When designing an evaluation I can choose to ignore the trauma or design an evaluation that creates the space to recognize the trauma and promote healing as a way to benefit both individuals and society as a whole.

I will ask myself these questions and commit to the following as I explore the intersection of evaluation, social justice, trauma, and healing:

  • What gets placed at the center? Mertens suggests we place human rights and social justice at the center. I will be more intentional about doing so.
  • How do I attend to what’s in the center? I will consider methods that promote healing through deep listening, bearing witness, and creating opportunities for people to connect to their inner selves and to each other.
  • For what purpose and to what ends do we evaluate? Bob Williams suggested recently in an EvalTalk post (4.4.15) titled “Evaluation’s Warrant” that one possible purpose is to serve humanity. I will deepen my thinking about this idea.
  • Who is evaluating? Educator Parker Palmer (2009) asks himself: “How does the quality of my selfhood form— or deform— the way I relate to my students, my subject, my colleagues, my world?” In a similar vein I will ask this question of myself as an evaluator and do the inner work needed to bring my best self to my work.

Rad Resources:

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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