Community Development TIG Week: R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Framework in Community Development Evaluation by Sharon Attipoe-Dorcoo

“Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having a voice to be heard.” -Liz Fosslien

This year Community Development (CD) TIG’s sponsored week focuses on community development evaluation and how members are addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Research shows that diversity and inclusion in the workforce enhance organizational performance and creativity, and positively impact population health outcomes ( CDC; Science Direct Diversity Article). In the forthcoming week, the CD TIG will seek to highlight these efforts, as well as share Hot Tips and Tools with readers on how to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within the community development and evaluation workspace.

I am Sharon Attipoe-Dorcoo, principal of TERSHA LLC, a Ghanaian-American who embraces her intersectional facets of being a wife and mom in her work, and is a community scholar-activist who found her path from engineering into public health. My work is rooted in culturally responsive and equitable tools for co-designing research and evaluation initiatives with communities.

As an evaluator who also navigates the fields of health services research and public health, I am always fascinated with the intersectional frameworks that support the principles of culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE).[1] When it comes to the work of community development evaluation the contextual factors that influence the evaluation approach are so critical to be considered a priori. The R.E.S.P.E.C.T. framework was developed as a practical approach to allow for such considerations.[2] The blog highlights the components of the framework in an effort to make a case for its use in evaluation.

Each of the components of the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. framework encourages a reflective practice of both centering the community and allowing the evaluation process to take on a collective approach with the community the evaluator’s work is focused on.

  • Representativeness: How are the people of the community, as well as the varying contexts reflected and represented in the evaluation process?
  • Engagement: The evaluator listens to, and involves community members in a co-creative process.
  • Sense-making: By including diverse voices in the evaluation process, the evaluator is able to engage with robust and meaningful ways of approaching the evaluation questions, without also losing focus of the reason for the evaluation, which centers on the community.
  • Personalization: The engagement of community members brings forth with it a level of recognition of various needs, goals and preferences of the individuals. In navigating such recognition, the evaluator is able to truly lean into the contextual factors that needs to be a part of the evaluation process.
  • Empathy: The evaluator leans into both their heart and mind in the work, and allows for the lived experiences of community members to not only guide the evaluation, but also honor them in the process as well.
  • Collaboration: Equitable power sharing with recognition by the evaluator that the community members are the contextual experts in the work, and it is by collectively creating inclusive structures that respects this truth that result in sustainability on the evaluation findings.
  • Trust: Evaluators are mindful of the fact that trust is an integral part of the evaluation process when working with communities.

Lesson Learned:

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. is a practical approach to guide the work of community development evaluation, and the framework’s components are grounded in CREE principles. With an evolving recognition of the need to decolonize evaluation, and desist from perpetuating harms of excluding under-resourced communities in co-design approaches, there is increasing need for sustainable and equitable tools to inform evaluation evidence.

Hot Tip:

Community development efforts that do not account for community context and their culture are not sustainable; therefore R.E.S.P.E.C.T. embraces a trans-disciplinary approach to inform evaluation in service to communities.

[1] Attipoe-Dorcoo, S. & Martínez-Rubin, N. (in press). Critically Defining I.M.P.A.C.T. for Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation. In Adedoyin, C., Amutah-Onukagha, N, & Jones, C. (Eds.), Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation: Visions and Voices of Emerging Scholars. Cognella Academic Publishing. San Diego, CA.

[2] Tufte, J. E., Dungan, R. E., & Attipoe-Dorcoo, S. (2021). Culturally responsive health research: A collaborative design model for equitable and sustainable community impact. The Journal of Health Design, 6(3).

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 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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