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Data Ethics Week: Building Your Team’s Ethical Thinking Muscles: Professional Development in Ethics by Anjie Rosga

Hi – once again it’s Anjie Rosga, from Informing Change. This time, I’m here with a reflection on professional development in ethical thinking for Data Ethics Week. If my and Caitlin Stanton’s first post focused on the origins of data ethics and contemporary interpretations of how to do research and evaluation in the social sector ethically (detailed in the Data Ethics Guidebook), this one zooms in on one big Rad Resource, the accompanying Toolkit, which presents practical tools for putting the Guidebook’s recommendations into practice.

Rad Resource

The heart and soul of the Toolkit are its Stories from the Field, which cover such tricky territory as:

  • How methods such as participant-created videos and photographs can turn into stereotype-perpetuating uses beyond participants’ control
  • The meaning of ‘consent’ within contexts of inherently unequal power dynamics
  • How the collection of demographic data intended to examine inequities can backfire by identifying participants
  • Pressures to cherry-pick data to tell a more positive story

These stories provide the fodder with which to engage—and help deepen—readers’ ethical thinking through discussion. The Toolkit provides guidance on how to lead a workshop with the stories, as well as:

  • A 1-page Framework for Ethical Thinking with questions for each phase of the evaluation cycle
  • A Learning & Decision Log to record practical guidance your team or participants agree upon
  • Sample Evaluation and Photo Use Consent & Release Forms
  • A rich list of resources for further reading

Cool Trick

At Informing Change, we’ve road-tested the Stories to great effect, and we use the Framework above as part of our project launch meetings. We’ve also used it in staff meetings as we (re-)consider our standard practices alongside complementary commitments to equity and systems change. We’re also beginning to use the questions it raises in our research designs as we shape our responses to RFPs.

Thank you to the many experts we interviewed to bring these resources to the field, and to all our evaluation participants whose wisdom pushes us to do our work better and more ethically every day.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Data Ethics Week.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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