My name is Kyrah Brown. I am a community psychologist and the program evaluator at Ubuntu Village, a grassroots African-centered community education program in Kansas. I would like to share some lessons from my experience working with an African-centered program that is addressing health disparities through community education and grassroots collaboration.
Ubuntu Village operates as both a Saturday school program and a hub by which collaborative partnerships can be formed to address relevant community issues. Following an initial needs assessment, Ubuntu Village will be partnering with other groups to provide a series of workshops focused on health education. It is important to note that Ubuntu Village is nested within a community that, for years, has been the focus of various interventions aimed at reducing health disparities (e.g. infant mortality and diabetes). This can be problematic particularly when such efforts fail to recognize or understand the cultural and community context. Grassroots programs such as Ubuntu Village are needed because they play a critical role in filling gaps that may exist within community. One of my primary tasks has been to build an infrastructure for evaluation within the program and in doing so, I have gathered new insight into effective and responsive programming.
Hot Tip: Seek out others who have experience or expertise in designing and evaluating programs specific to the culture you are working with. I found it extremely helpful and reassuring to reach out to various individuals who worked with African-centered programs. With many different types of African-centered programs, it really does help to examine and learn from the various evaluation approaches that are being used.
Lesson Learned: You must be prepared to be adaptive and creative. The process of building an infrastructure for evaluation at Ubuntu Village, although rewarding, has been challenging. I found it difficult to find information about African-centered evaluation models (outside of education programming) from which I could pattern my efforts. In the end I found it necessary to trust in my knowledge base and use some creativity in building an appropriate evaluation approach.
Hot Tip: Using a culture-centered lens, in my case an African-centered lens, in every phase of the evaluation is valuable. Health disparity interventions are not one-size-fit-all, even if the target populations appear the same on the surface. Failing to adjust your lens ignores the program context which, in this case, is essentially rooted in rich cultural and community values. In my experience, using this lens helped better identify the needs and resources of the community.
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