Cultural Competence Week: Hanife Cakici, Lucy El-Sherif, and Molly Hamm on Understanding How Cultural Self-identity Affects Evaluation Work in International Contexts

Hi everyone! We are three evaluators committed to cultural competence in evaluation, particularly in international contexts. Hanife Cakici is a postdoctoral fellow and independent research consultant whose dissertation work focuses on perceptions of evaluation in Turkey. Lucy El-Sherif is a doctoral student at OISE, University of Toronto, and recently completed an evaluation of community schools in Egypt. Molly Hamm, Associate Director of DREAM Project, is based in Dominican Republic and serves on the Advisory Board of Caribbean Evaluators International. We presented at AEA 2014 on local meanings and negotiations of evaluation in these three contexts.

Lesson Learned: We actively integrate the principles of the AEA Statement on Cultural Competence into our work. In particular, we support the idea that “cultural competence requires awareness of self, reflection on one’s own cultural position, awareness of others’ positions, and the ability to interact genuinely and respectfully with others.“ Self-reflection and self-awareness are critical elements to cultural competence in evaluation, and should be present at all phases of an evaluation.

Lesson Learned: Evaluators working in international contexts must recognize their positionality and how it could affect the outcomes of an evaluation. As an evaluator, there is an immediate power differential introduced to relationships as the evaluator is charged to some extent with representing the participants and/or the evaluand to an external audience. Evaluators also introduce their own culturally influenced norms, values, and ways of knowing into the evaluation process itself. Evaluators striving for cultural competence should step back to reflect on the ways in which any power differentials might influence interactions, perceptions, and results.

Lesson Learned: Because cultural competence is fluid, evaluators must constantly check themselves for biases and assumptions. An ability to work effectively in one context or within one community does not automatically enable one to work successfully within a different context. Insider-outsider status is a critical component to consider. While insiders share an identity or salient social marker with the evaluand, outsiders do not (or are perceived as not) have these elements in common. Insider-outsider status is also fluid. The salience of social markers changes with time, even within a single conversation, evolving alongside situational dynamics. Whether the evaluator is perceived as an insider or outsider to the community can have significant effects on the evaluation process.

Get Involved: The theme of Evaluation 2015–Exemplary Evaluations in a Multicultural World: Learning from Evaluation’s Successes around the Globe–provides a perfect opportunity for evaluators to consider how cultural competence applies to their evaluation practice.

This week, we’re diving into issues of Cultural Competence in Evaluation with AEA’s Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation Dissemination Working Group. 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.


1 thought on “Cultural Competence Week: Hanife Cakici, Lucy El-Sherif, and Molly Hamm on Understanding How Cultural Self-identity Affects Evaluation Work in International Contexts”

  1. Such a great reminder about our role of self which is often, in my experience, underestimated in the international development sector. I think that is why its helpful to ensure that an evaluation team is comprised of a diverse group that can both relate to the local community and environment in the data gathering stages as well as can influence evaluation stakeholders in the reporting stages.

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