Best of AEA365: Dominica McBride on Living with the People

Hi again, I’m Dominica McBride, Founder and CEO of Become: Center for Community Engagement and Social Change. A few weeks ago, I wrote a tip on the importance of cultural competence. I wrote on the perpetual sociopolitical dilemmas we face as a society. Today, I’m providing a way to contribute to alleviating these issues.

Start with the wisdom of Lao Tzu –Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘We have done this ourselves.’”

It is out of this concept that real and sustainable transformation happens. I work in communities that are marginalized both socio-politically and economically. A remedy to this reality is co-creation; those affected by the decisions sit at the table, are equal partners in making the decisions, and co-create the conditions they desire.

Lesson Learned:

For this to happen, framing and language are key. In one community project, we decided to call the community evaluation team the “elevation team,” which connotes a collective process of creating and realizing a vision. From this framing and subsequent relationship building, we built an evaluation team with parents, youth, elders, and organizational staff. Together, we’ve established a team vision and mission, evaluation question questions, methods, and are now collecting data.

Hot Tips:

Believe in people. Even though someone may not have completed high school or be over the age of 12 doesn’t mean they are not capable. The youth on our community evaluation team have come up with some of the best evaluation questions and now are engaging other youth in ways we, as adults, are not as able.

Ask. Some make the mistake of thinking that community members (especially in marginalized areas) would not want to be involved in an evaluation or social change process. I’ve found this to be far from the truth, especially if the evaluation targets an issue about which they are passionate. In the discovery process, we learned what they cared about and then asked if they would be involved.

Build genuine, interdependent relationships. One-on-ones are at the heart of community organizing. Why? It’s because relationships are necessary in developing and maintaining cohesion and motivation. They are the glue for teams, especially those addressing challenging social issues. If relationships fall apart, the initiative will likely fail.

Rad Resources:  

Check out the Community Tool Box for tips and tools on strengthening partnerships, advocacy, and sustaining the initiative.

Read Whatever it Takes by Paul Tough about an inspiring story on how to create change.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Best of aea365, an occasional series. The contributions for Best of aea365 are reposts of great blog articles from our earlier years. 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.

1 thought on “Best of AEA365: Dominica McBride on Living with the People”

  1. Hi Dominica,
    I really enjoyed your blog post. As part of my Professional Master of Education program at Queens University we have been looking at the AEA365 Blog and and looking at different aspects of evaluation. One blog post I read a few weeks back, “Seven Tips to Decolonize Your MEL Practice” by Sabine Topolansky and JulieAnn Sickell had me realize how even with evaluation, evaluators hold some form of power over programs being evaluated. The article talked about when we evaluate programs that take place in a community other than our own, we may be using our Global North’s “gold standard” to judge the program. Your blog post shows a possible solution to this by including local communities into the evaluation process so that they can work together to change where they live.

    Like your blog post says, any person can be a part of evaluation no matter their education level or age. And by including community members it gives them an opportunity to help “elevate” where they live. Having more inclusive perspectives can only ever be a benefit when working with marginalized groups.

    Thanks so much for your post!

    Topolansky, S. & Sickell, J. (2021, October 6th). Seven tips to decolonize your MEL practice, by Sabine Topolansky and JulieAnn Sickell. AEA365.

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