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
- 1970s, when the American Indian Movement occupied Wounded Knee, the Supreme Court decided Roe v Wade, and the USA withdrew from the American war in Viet Nam?
- 1980s, when the Walleye Wars threatened Ojibwe spearfishers and when Vincent Chin—a Chinese American—was murdered by autoworkers angry at Japan?
- 1990s, between passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the testimony of Anita Hill, the LA uprising, and the “trial of the century”?
- 2000s, with establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, the case against Affirmative Action, and the #MeToo movement?
- 2010s, with the launch of Black Lives Matter and Marriage Equality?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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@eval.org. 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.