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Community Development TIG Week: Evaluation in Gentrifying Communities by Asma Ali, Jovita Murillo, and Noé Rubén Chávez

Happy Community Development Week! We are Asma M. Ali from AA & Associates LLC in Chicago, Jovita Murillo of the University of Louisville, and Noé Rubén Chávez of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

Gentrification is a process of community change where higher-income earners move into lower-income neighborhoods, altering the community’s makeup. Our upcoming 2025 New Directions in Evaluation article highlights our recent learnings about conducting evaluation projects in Chicago and Los Angeles’ gentrifying communities. Evaluation can be an important tool to support placemaking, supporting communities to better serve the residents, in gentrifying communities.

Lessons Learned

  1. Gentrification shifts create community changes that influence the notion of “self” and “safety” for community residents. Gentrifying communities become less accessible or affordable, thus, challenging original residents’ perception of self and safety. Evaluators must consider shifts in space to promote voices of community stakeholders in evaluation.
  2. Neighborhood changes are often coupled with mistrust of researchers and universities. Universities traditionally have contributed to gentrification, often leading to community members’ mistrust. Evaluators working in these communities must build trust with community leaders and members, ensuring they feel comfortable with the proposed evaluation.
  3. Creative endeavors can support new connections between community residents and evaluators. In our programs, community members, including youth, created community models, protest posters, and podcasts about their experiences. These interactions promoted skill building to promote change stories. These opportunities increased formal and informal understanding to develop between community researchers, community leaders, youth, and residents.
  4. Evaluators and their work must adapt to emerging needs in gentrifying communities. Evaluations in these communities occur during major shifts in community demographics, social structures, and physical community landscapes. Evaluators must be aware of how these shifts impact evaluation.

Rad Resources

Gentrification offers an opportunity to reflexively consider evaluators’ relationship to community and its residents. What has been your experience working with these communities and its original residents?

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Community Development TIG Week with our colleagues in the Community DevelopmentTopical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our CD 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. 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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