Breaking Free: Transforming the Practice of Evaluation: Evaluation is So White: Systemic Wrongs Reinforced by Common Practices and How to Start Righting Them by Fontane Lo and Rachele Espiritu

Hello! This is Fontane Lo of the Blue Shield of California Foundation and Rachele Espiritu of Change Matrix. We are interested in evolving our field in ways that encourage and empower evaluators of color to shape the future of evaluation. We believe that evaluation in service of equity cannot be realized without the lived experience and expertise evaluators of color bring — their perspectives as Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and multi-racial individuals are critical.

We had the honor of leading an action team on this topic with the Funder & Evaluator Affinity Network (FEAN). Building upon Luminare Group and Engage R+D’s research, our team of funders and evaluators developed a set of recommendations for funders, evaluation firms, and pathway programs with the goal of spurring dialogue and change.

The overarching theme is that structural racism exists in evaluation. We all have work to do, particularly evaluation firms and funders, in dismantling the systemic wrongs that are reinforced over time by common practices that we have seldom reconsidered or revisited. This blog post focuses on tips for evaluation firms, see our brief for tips relevant to funders and pathway programs.

Hot Tips for Evaluation Firms

  • Acknowledge power dynamics and create space. It matters when leaders acknowledge white dominant notions of leadership and commit to making shifts. Host conversations about white supremacy culture characteristics, race, and racism in the workplace as a start to a new way of being, thinking, and doing.
  • Self-assess and be proactive. Firms should be proactive in confidentially and regularly soliciting staff feedback (e.g., Gallup Q12) with attention to the experiences of evaluators of color. Leadership can track and assess potential disparities in pay, benefits, access to high-visibility project work, promotions, and access to professional development. Ensure evaluators of color are connected to the support they need, including peer connections and mentorship.
  • Be inclusive and appreciate contributions with intention. Empower and support evaluators of color to take on leadership roles, including project budgets that plan for greater inclusion. Practices may include inviting team members to present and hear feedback directly from the client and acknowledging the contributions of individual staff and other stakeholders as a standard practice.

Rad Resources

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Breaking Free: Transforming the Practice of Evaluation Week. 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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