AEA’s DEI Working Group Week: The Power of Perspective: Generations of Evaluators Generating Change by Vidhya Shanker, Ayesha Boyce, and Libby Smith

Greetings from Vidhya Shanker, co-chair with Nisaa Kirtman and Elizabeth Taylor-Schiro of AEA’s DEI Working Group, along with Ayesha Boyce and Libby Smith. With all the recent hubbub around “DEI,” have you ever wondered where the US field of evaluation was when previous reminders of extreme inequality, polarization, and systemic oppression unfolded—before COVID and the uprisings of 2020? For example, in the

Unless we know ourselves and our history, and other people and their history, there is really no way that we can really have positive kinds of interaction where there is real understanding.

While evaluation may not have taken official notice and acted, many evaluation scholars and practitioners have been working individually and collectively to advance understanding of—or at least raise questions about—structural oppression since the field’s formalization in the 1970s. Drawing from appreciative inquiry and futures/ forecasting methods as well as indigenous knowledge traditions, the AEA DEI Working Group has been taking stock of milestones in AEA’s DEI journey as part of its process of discovery and dreaming its future, that of evaluation, and that of the world. At Evaluation 22 this November in New Orleans, AEA’s annual conference attendees will have a chance to see some of these milestones come to life through The Power of Perspective—a multimedia installation consisting of four parts: 1) a DEI Journey Map, 2) an Exhibition of DEI Artifacts, 3) Reflexive Praxis, and 4) Oral Histories.

Not everything is taught to us in school. It's up to us to find out.
Multi-media Installation

Through the interactive DEI Journey Map and crowd-sourced Exhibition of DEI artifacts, attendees will have a chance to engage with the words and images of agents of change within AEA and the field at large. Where were you and your people in

  • 1971, when Donald Campbell named the field’s whiteness in the American Journal of Evaluation’s precursor?
  • 1981, when Wolf Wolfensberger reversed the gaze on disability in what is now New Directions for Evaluation?
  • 1992, when Ceasar McDawell connected racialized patterns in standardized test scores to the individualistic epistemologies underlying dominating mental models of education and assessment?
  • 2002, when Denice Ward Hood and Denice Cassaro first named white supremacy, Black Feminist Thought, heterosexism, and intersectionality in the peer-reviewed evaluation literature?
  • 2012, when Katie Johnston-Goodstar historicized evaluation within the asymmetrical structure of colonization and named the subsequent need for decolonization in, of, and through evaluation?
Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it. We are all part of one another.
Reflexive Praxis

Attendees will have opportunities to put themselves on the journey map, identifying pivotal moments on their own journeys that they can insert into the collective timeline. Worksheets and facilitated activities will be available to guide attendees through individual and small group activities designed to cultivate Reflexive Praxis.

Oral Histories

While the Journey Map and Exhibition of Artifacts illuminate documentation of AEA’s DEI journey that has been hidden in plain sight, the Reflexive Praxis activities will likely reveal parts of the journey that remain undocumented within evaluation’s canon. A parallel effort is thus underway to repair the canon by recording and sharing—in multiple languages and formats—the invisible labor of change agents who have been engaged in evaluative thinking and critical inquiry within resistance movements, perhaps unaffiliated with evaluation’s institutions and professional associations.

Get Involved!

To contribute to the Journey Map, loan items for the Exhibition of Artifacts, or develop activities for Reflexive Praxis, email Vidhya Shanker. Sign up here to contribute to the Oral Histories. Stipends are available and expenses will be reimbursed thanks in part to support from the Barr Foundation.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting DEI Week with our colleagues in AEA’s DEI Working Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from working group members. 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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