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Embracing Vulnerability in Evaluation by Luba Falk Feigenberg

Hello, AEA365 community! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. This week is Individuals Week, which means we take a break from our themed weeks and spotlight the Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources and Lessons Learned from any evaluator interested in sharing. Would you like to contribute to future individuals weeks? Email me at AEA365@eval.org with an idea or a draft and we will make it happen.

Hello! I am Luba Falk Feigenberg, Founder and Principal Consultant of Reframe Evaluation where I support mission-driven leaders to use evaluation to tell the story of their impact and to build sustainable and equitable practices.

Vulnerability is a feeling of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure that arises when we allow ourselves to be seen, heard, and deeply known, according to psychologist Brene Brown.

In this sense, vulnerability is an essential part of evaluation. Evaluation is a collaborative process that requires openness, authenticity, and the willingness to delve into uncomfortable spaces.

I’ve found 5 key aspects of vulnerability to be helpful to consider:

  1. Create Inclusive Spaces: Vulnerability is the willingness to be seen, heard, and deeply known. In evaluation, this translates into establishing inclusive environments where diverse groups of people feel comfortable sharing their perspectives, experiences, and concerns without fear of judgment or reprisal. Evaluators can actively cultivate a culture of respect and trust, ensuring that marginalized voices are listened to, believed, and valued. By embracing vulnerability in this way, evaluation allows for a broader range of perspectives and experiences to shape the outcomes.
  • Build Meaningful Connections: Vulnerability is a pathway to genuine human connection. This holds true in evaluation, where it is vital to build meaningful connections with all key parties involved. Evaluators should strive to connect on a deeper level, actively listening to people’s stories and experiences. By engaging with empathy and curiosity, evaluators can better understand the community’s perspectives and incorporate their voices into the evaluation process. These meaningful connections foster trust, enhance data quality, and provide a more holistic understanding of the context being evaluated.
  1. Promote Equitable Participation and Power Sharing: The idea of vulnerability highlights the importance of engaging with others. Inclusive evaluation practices involve key groups at every stage, giving them a voice and an active role in shaping the evaluation. A participatory approach promotes ownership and ensures that evaluation outcomes align with the diverse needs and perspectives of the community. Further, by redistributing power and promoting inclusive participation, evaluations become more equitable and reflect a wider range of experiences and needs.
  1. Embrace Authenticity and Cultural Humility: Authenticity is about not trying to have all the answers and knowing there is always more to learn. In the evaluation realm, this means evaluators strive to understand and respect the cultural contexts of stakeholders, making sure that evaluation processes are culturally responsive. Evaluators also need to acknowledge their own limitations, biases, and vulnerabilities. As facilitative guides, evaluators also need to acknowledge and address power dynamics and cultural nuances.
  1. Learn from Vulnerability to Drive Equitable Change: Vulnerability serves as a catalyst for growth and resilience. In evaluation, embracing vulnerability leads to learning and improvement. Evaluators can foster a culture of learning and adaptation, recognizing that vulnerability allows for greater awareness of gaps and opportunities for change. By acknowledging vulnerabilities and weaknesses in programs, policies, and practices, evaluations can promote equitable change, address systemic barriers, and foster more inclusive and impactful outcomes.

Lesson Learned:

  • Embracing vulnerability helps evaluators facilitate learning processes that drive positive change and promote equity.
  • By incorporating vulnerability into evaluation practices, evaluators can facilitate a more inclusive, transparent, and impactful evaluation process that honors the diverse voices and experiences of key groups involved.
  • To build more equitable evaluation practices, evaluators can focus on creating inclusive spaces, building connections, embracing authenticity, promoting power sharing, and cultivating a culture of learning.

Rad Resources:

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@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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