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ENRI Week: Practicing into equity in evaluation is a continuous journey of transformation by Cynthia Roberts

Hello, I am Cynthia Roberts, PhD, evaluator at the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV). Over the last nearly ten years I have been leading the evaluation of our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded work in the primary prevention of intimate partner violence. I am a co-founder of the Evaluation Network of Rhode Island (ENRI), and an active member of the community where I live and my faith community.

I will reflect on our theme through the lens of my own journey as an evaluator, highlighting some of the ways in which building trusting relationships continues to support my moving into equity in my evaluation practice. As I write this post I find myself needing language that is more about becoming than a state of being or arrival. Moving towards equitable, anti-racist, anti-oppressive ways of doing evaluation is a lifelong commitment to continuous learning, growth, and transformation. I use both “we” and “I” to reflect the personal and collective.

In imagining a world where violence never happens in the first place, our domestic violence movement is examining its own foundations and connections to systems that are inherently harmful. It is in the context of this movement that I am simultaneously learning and unlearning in order to lead and co-create evaluation approaches that are aligned with the values to which we aspire.

We are building relationships with funders, colleagues, work family, learning communities, local communities, state and local agency staff, and people involved in national and regional movements – all committed to societal changes where all people, families, communities, and beings have equitable chances for a healthy, thriving life. Through these relationships, I am experiencing subtle and seismic shifts in my worldview and ways of being that are allowing me to work in relationships that are slower, more humble, more connected to place, and that center our humanity and interconnectedness.

Shifts in our planning/implementation/evaluation practice means centering our work on Black Indigenous People of Color, LGBTQ+ communities, femmes and female identifying folk, and people with disabilities. It means listening more to frontline communities and following their lead, creating funding opportunities with decreased burdens on small grassroots organizations, offering multiple ways of reporting (e.g., oral, written, video). It means spending time in the communities where the work is happening, breaking bread with partners and community members, taking time to allow a theory of change or logic model to develop out of the community-led work rather than imposing such models. It looks like sharing data with our partners to help them develop their programs and strategies, not just taking data for reporting to funders. It means using my privilege as an evaluator to “advocate up” with funders for evaluation deliverables that are more consistent with the way our strategies are moving and aligned with what communities value and want to know. It means co-creating evalu-cations products such as The Voices of Change that can be disseminated to leverage funding and support for our partners’ work, storytelling that is meaningful to partners and useful to movement building.

In closing, a big thanks to everyone who is part of this journey. It is an honor to be on this path together.

Rad Resources

Voices of Change: Building Safe, Supportive Communities to End Violence

(divorcing) White Supremacy Culture: Coming Home to Who We Really Are.

Two podcasts that are very meaningful to me and actively influence my continued transformation as an evaluator and person: On Being with Krista Tippett and Green Dreamer hosted and produced by Kamea Chayne.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Evaluation Network of Rhode Island (ENRI) Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from ENRI Affiliate members. 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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