Hi, Lauren Beriont (she/hers) here. I’m one of three owner members of Emergence Collective. We’re a women-owned evaluation firm that in many ways started as an experiment to build a business structure and way of working together fundamentally based in equity (yes we’re definitely still learning). As pointed out by colleagues, building authentic relationships is a core part of decolonizing evaluations. That said, here are 14 words for you to begin to know more about me: twin, originally from New Jersey, lover of all nature, queer, sommelier-hopeful, high energy, nerd.
About ten months ago our team began to identify what decolonizing evaluation would look like by articulating how white supremacy was showing up in our evaluation work and in our organizational culture. Below we’ve shared a table that begins to outline our thinking and offers alternate evaluation applications that are actively anti-racist. One choice we’ve made is to steer clear of the word “decolonized”. We feel decolonizing has an active tense that aligns with our perspective that this work is ongoing and that there is a lot more to a decolonized world than evaluation.
Join us, help us deepen our thinking. As they say, “The longer you swim in a culture, the more invisible it becomes”, so there is no good time to start like today [yesterday?].
|Either/or thinking||Both/and thinking||Move beyond themes and trends. Explore where there are tensions and contradictions in the data Use evaluation for learning and growth instead of as a pass/fail report|
|Fear of open conflict||Conflict as healthy||Set up time for biweekly feedback using tools like The Management Center’s 2×2 feedbackRegularly gather partner feedback during the evaluation|
|Perfectionism||High quality||Regular brief reports and check-ins as opposed to long end-of-project reportsReframe mistakes as opportunities for learning|
|Quantity over quality||Quality over quantity||Use a mixed methods evaluation approach to gather qualitative and quantitative dataExpand collection beyond vanity metrics (e.g. number of participants)Build in time in budget to pivot evaluation based on community feedback|
|Progress is bigger, more||Progress is more just, increased wellbeing||Consider positive evaluation outcomes that don’t only demonstrate growth|
|Objectivity||Strong objectivity||Have multiple individuals analyze the same data setActively discuss how bias plays a role in evaluation Involve participants, staff and community members in data interpretation|
|Right to comfort||Engage in discomfort||Practice feeling uncomfortable. Use the “Risk/Learning Zone” as a model for individual and organizational growth|
|Worship of the written word||Communicate impact in multiple mediums||Move away from lengthy written reports Include more visual presentations and reports with images and diagrams Expand data collection beyond surveys|
|Sense of urgency||Go slow to go fast||Design realistic work plans. Distinguish between realistic short-term and long-term outcomesInvest in relationship building with the community voice at the outset|
Rad Resource: Dismantling Racism Workbook https://www.dismantlingracism.org/ that outlined white supremacy culture, which we used in the “colonized” column above.
Lesson Learned: It is uncomfortable, yet crucial, to bring this thinking to our nonprofit and foundation partners. We’ve reframed this discomfort as a proxy indicator that we’re on the right track.
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