GEDI Week: D. Pearl Barnett on Cultural Responsiveness in a Representative Bureaucracy

Greetings, I am D. Pearl Barnett, MPA, graduate student at the University of Oklahoma, and recent graduate of AEA’s Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) program.  During my work at the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City, we completed an evaluation of the agency’s Strategic Plan. Here, I present a few salient lessons about cultural responsiveness from my experience.

When faced with the matter of “diversity” among evaluation stakeholders and participants, these questions surfaced: Is diversity an issue when organization staff reflect their community and service recipients (clients)? Does it matter in a monoracial organization/community? The theory of representative bureaucracy holds that shared demographics among stakeholders, staff, and clients, means shared values. By this logic, organizational programs, policies, and actvities should inherently address clients’ diverse needs and desires. The truth is organizations always have diversity concerns no matter its demographic make-up. It is our duty to address these concerns in our evaluations.


  • Improve evaluation quality – and the relationship between organization and evaluation staff – by discussing the value of client input and the importance of allowing the data to speak for itself.

Representative bureaucracy assumes a link between demographic similarity and cultural awareness within an organization. Cultural responsiveness is the realization that though staff and clients may be demographically similar, there are still many differences (i.e., needs and values) that must be addressed among clients. Ensuring clients have a voice is the first step.

  • Develop needs assessments, making sure to include the staff and community in every area of the process.

The cultural knowledge of the staff is important and ensuring all necessary information is gathered is equally important. The needs assessments serve as tools to obtain information directly from the clients. Staff and community member interviews throughout survey development are to improve respondents’ understanding, maximize the response rate, while generating staff buy-in to the evaluation and its outcomes.


Rad Resource:  Effectively Managing Nonprofit Organizations.  Edited By Richard L. Edwards and John A. Yankey. Published in 2006.  Washington, DC: NASW Press.  This book addresses diversity management and new approaches to program evaluation within the context of nonprofit organizations.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) Program week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s GEDI Program and its interns. For more information on GEDI, see their webpage here:  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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.