Expanding the Bench™ Week: Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation: What is it and Why is it Important? by Karla Mendez & Alina Taniuchi

Hi! Karla Mendez and Alina Taniuchi here. We’re Change Specialists at Change Matrix and Expanding the Bench™ (ETB) team members. ETB is an initiative based on the fundamental belief that increasing diversity in the field of evaluation improves our knowledge base and makes for better science and social innovation. On behalf of the ETB Family, we welcome you to our series of blogs on culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE). 

Images of ETB members

Defining CREE

CREE requires the integration of diversity, inclusion, and equity in all phases of evaluation. Working closely with allies, we have come to define CREE as an approach that incorporates cultural, structural, and contextual factors (e.g., historical, social, economic, racial, ethnic, gender) using a participatory process that shifts power to individuals most impacted. CREE is not just one method of evaluation; it is an approach that should be infused into all evaluation methodologies. CREE advances equity by informing strategy, program improvement, decision-making, policy formation, and social change.

Evaluators are Storytellers

We partner with communities to give voice to successes and challenges through data and evidence. CREE elevates and produces better evaluation because it provides a deeper understanding of lived experience.

As storytellers, evaluators must recognize their own biases and the unique perspectives they bring into the work. There is a legacy of injustice in the US and other places that has disproportionately impacted certain populations or communities, perpetuating disparities and sustaining imbalances in power. 

CREE seeks to dismantle such historical and ongoing tactics of oppression by imploring the field to look critically at its people and practice. Think of all the perspectives and voices that have been excluded and/or are missing from the field – all those stories being left untold or misrepresented. By diversifying the field, the accuracy, rigor, and validity of evaluation designs, approaches, measurement tools, products, and community stories become stronger. Improving the effectiveness of evaluation should be every evaluator’s goal!

The following blog series speaks to the importance of diversity in the evaluation field through CREE. You will hear from members of our Expanding the Bench initiative, including the Advancing Culturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network and the Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) Program around: 

  • How CREE supports better evaluation;
  • What CREE looks like in practice;
  • How to address challenges in applying a CREE approach; and
  • The value of CREE to funders of evaluation.

Hot Tip: As you further explore CREE, ask yourself: “How does my lived experience alter the lens through which I practice evaluation?”

Rad Resources:

This week, we’re diving into issues of Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation (CREE) with contributions from members of the Expanding the Bench Initiative (ETB). ETB is an initiative based on the fundamental belief that increasing diversity in the field of evaluation improves our knowledge base and makes for better science and social innovation. 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.

6 thoughts on “Expanding the Bench™ Week: Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation: What is it and Why is it Important? by Karla Mendez & Alina Taniuchi”

  1. Describing evaluators as storytellers was what really pulled me into this post, as did a lot of confirmation bias, as I nodded and soaked up each line that affirmed where I currently am as an educator and as a graduate student. Indeed, storytellers share their lived experience in an effort to connect and create meaning with their audience. What a wonderful way to think of evaluators!

    Culturally responsive and equitable evaluation is critical for us in how we evaluate and help shape programs, now more than ever. At this time in which we find ourselves as a society, this post reminds us, “As storytellers, evaluators must recognize their own biases and the unique perspectives they bring into the work.” We must heed this advice; however, I struggle with the paradox of bringing our lived experiences and perspectives into our work, and yet in a way that avoids the hazards of our own biases.

    I wonder if the field of program evaluation, and the communities, programs and stakeholders it should serve, needs to perhaps revisit the Standards of Practice through the lens of an anti-racist society. Whether the program is in the field of education, health care, community or social services, each evaluation must come from this culturally responsive place described in this article. As you say, we must implore the field to do so. There is a sense of urgency here: I believe we have to shout it from the rooftops, and not tiptoe our way around the fragility that is the very thing that protects the oppression that social, political and economic structures have been born out of. I will delve further into your suggested resources, particularly Culturally Responsive Evaluation, Theory, Practice and Future Implications. I am curious to learn more about what the CREE theory looks like in practice, especially in evaluating programs that support Black youth. In the meantime, I will bring your question, “How does my lived experience alter the lens through which I practice evaluation?” into my practice, into my conversations with others, and as part of the way I listen to others’ stories.

    With thanks,
    Penny Delaney

  2. Describing evaluators as storytellers was what really pulled me into this post, as did a lot of confirmation bias, as I nodded and soaked up each line that affirmed where I currently am as an educator and as a graduate student. Indeed, storytellers share their lived experience in an effort to connect and create meaning with their audience. What a wonderful way to think of evaluators!

    Culturally responsive and equitable evaluation is critical for us in how we evaluate and help shape programs, now more than ever. At this time in which we find ourselves as a society, this post reminds us, “As storytellers, evaluators must recognize their own biases and the unique perspectives they bring into the work.” We must heed this advice; however, I struggle with the paradox of bringing our lived experiences and perspectives into our work, and yet in a way that somehow avoids the hazards of our own biases.

    I wonder if the field of program evaluation, and the communities, programs and stakeholders it should serve, needs to perhaps revisit the Standards of Practice through the lens of an anti-racist society. Whether the program is in the field of education, health care, community or social services, each evaluation must come from this culturally responsive place described in this article. As you say, we must implore the field to do so. There is a sense of urgency here: I believe we have to shout it from the rooftops, and not tiptoe our way around the fragility that is the very thing which protects the oppression that many of our social, political and economic structures have been born out of. I will delve further into your suggested resources, particularly Culturally Responsive Evaluation, Theory, Practice and Future Implications. I am curious to learn more about what the CREE theory looks like in practice, especially in evaluating programs that support Black youth. In the meantime, I will bring your question, “How does my lived experience alter the lens through which I practice evaluation?” into my practice, into my conversations with others, and as part of the way I listen to and learn from others’ stories.
    With thanks,
    Penny Delaney

  3. Ms. Robinson
    Thank you for sharing such an insightful post on a very important topic that affects evaluation. I am in an international setting and I feel cultural bias can play a role in the evaluation process and in the effectiveness of the evaluation results.

    This cultural and equity focus links to the “American Evaluation Association Guiding Principles for Evaluators”, where it is necessary to: “Mitigate the bias and potential power imbalances that can occur as a result of the evaluation’s context”. (American Evaluation Association Guiding Principles for Evaluators, 2008)

    I agree with you that lived experience shape the lens through which we look at evaluation. You mention that “evaluators must recognize their own biases and their unique perspectives”. A quick question I have is: How can an evaluator limit their bias and, in the end, is bias truly avoidable and in fact inevitable?

    In addition, when you speak about diversity in the evaluation field, are you speaking of the diversity in the evaluation team itself. I know diversity in the evaluation team can bring different perspectives. Does this ensure equity and cultural responsiveness?

    Thank you in advance for your response.
    Nawal

  4. This is very informative and we could all benefit from the need of more diversity within evaluation. I wanted to learn more about this, and tried to go into the links provided under “rad resources”. Unfortunately, the research articles needed to be unlocked to provide more information than the abstract. I am currently a student in a Program Evaluation course, and reading about the ethics involved, as well as the hot topic in this post “As you further explore CREE, ask yourself: “How does my lived experience alter the lens through which I practice evaluation?”” really hit a cord for me. I thought to myself “how much does my personal experiences truly effect my ability to make ethical decisions?”

  5. One of the things we did in a recent evaluation report was have each team member write a positionality statement exploring their values, biases, and how they influence or impact them as evaluators. We got a very positive response from the funder and the client for including this in the report, and being transparent about ourselves as individuals, and a team.

  6. I am glad that this thread for AEA365 is being posted about CREE and mentoring evaluators in its practice. I notice one of the resources that is listed for this posting is an article that may not be accessible to everyone because it is published in the American Behavioral Scientist. For those who want the full text of the article, it is available at my website: http://transformativeresearchandevaluation.com/
    under Publications and then Sample Publications.
    The full reference is: American Behavioral Scientist
    56(6) 802–813
    © 2012 SAGE Publications
    Reprints and permission: http://www.
    sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
    DOI: 10.1177/0002764211433797

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