Celebrating Black History Month: Engaging Young Women of Color in Program Design & Evaluation by Nicole Clark

This week, we celebrate Black History Month with our colleagues in the Multicultural Issues in Evaluation (MIE) TIG. The contributions this week are evergreen posts contributed by MIE TIG members about topics so important, they’re worth a second read.

-Liz DiLuzio, Lead Curator

Hello! I’m Nicole Clark, a licensed social worker and independent evaluator for Nicole Clark Consulting. I specialize in working with organizations and agencies to design, implement, and evaluate programs and services specifically for women and young women of color.

Young women of color (YWOC) face many issues, including racism, sexism, ageism, immigrant status, socioeconomic status, and sexuality. How can evaluators make sure the programs we design and evaluate are affirming, inclusive, and raise the voices of YWOC?

To help you be more effective at engaging young Black, Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native/Indigenous women in your evaluation work, here are my lessons learned and a rad resource on engaging YWOC:

Lessons Learned: Not all YWOC are the same. YWOC are not a monolithic group. Within communities of color, there are a variety of cultures, customs, and regional differences to consider.

Meet YWOC where they are. What are the priorities of the YWOC involved in the program or service? When an organization is developing a program on HIV prevention while the YWOC they’re targeting are more concerned with the violence happening in their community, there’s a disconnect. What the organization (and even you as the evaluator) considers a high priority may not be to the YWOC involved.

Be mindful of slang and unnecessary jargon. Make your evaluation questions easy to understand and free from jargon. Be mindful of using slang words with YWOC. Given cultural and regional considerations (along with the stark difference in age between you as the evaluator and of the YWOC), slang words may not go over well.

Start broad, then get specific. Let’s use an example of creating a evaluation questions on reproductive rights and YWOC. Creating evaluation questions around “reproductive rights” may not be as effective to YWOC as creating evaluation questions on “taking care of yourself.” While both can mean the same thing, “taking care of yourself’ evokes an overall feeling of wellness and can get YWOC thinking of specific ways in which they want to take care of themselves. This can be narrowed down to aspects of their health they want to be more empowered on, and you can help organizations hone in on these needs to develop a program or service that YWOC would be interested in.

Rad Resource:

A great example of a YWOC-led program is the Young Women of Color Leadership Council (YWOCLC), a youth initiative through Advocates For Youth. Through thoughtful engagement of young people in their work, the YWOCLC cultivates a message of empowerment for young women of color, and it serves as a great example of a true youth-organization partnership framework. Pass this resource along to the youth-focused organizations you work with!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Multiethnic Issues in Evaluation (MIE) Week with our colleagues in the MIE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from MIE TIG 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.

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