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FIE TIG Week: Evaluation in the Era of #MeToo by Kate Locke and Rose Konecky

One of the most important social movements in the last decade became well-known for its effects in the entertainment, news, and political spheres. But it also strongly affects evaluators, and AEA has a responsibility and an opportunity to be responsive to it.

Greetings! We are Kate Locke, Associate Director of Evaluation and Learning and Rose Konecky, Consultant at TCC Group, a mission-driven consulting firm working in the social sector. When we heard the conference theme “Speaking Truth to Power” for AEA’s 2018 conference, we were very energized and wanted to use the theme to explore an issue weighing on both of us—how have issues raised by the #MeToo movement come up in our work as evaluators and as AEA members? We ultimately facilitated a roundtable looking at where we (as a field and as a professional association) have been, where we are going, and what we can do better in terms of keeping evaluators safe from harassment.

Hot Tip: Regardless of gender identity, evaluators face personal risk regarding harassment and inappropriate conduct.

We came up with this session idea after realizing that someone we had interviewed for a client engagement position had been fired from their organization for sexual misconduct. We reflected on the challenging situations faced by evaluators—collecting data in the field, interacting with clients, attending conferences, and working abroad. We also noted that while some evaluators have the support of a large organization such as a university to help keep them safe, many of our peers are independent contractors without access to dedicated HR staff and without much recourse if something goes wrong.

While many of the headlines regarding #MeToo have focused on the realms of Hollywood, the news, business, and politics, the social sector has had its share of bad actors, as we have seen in various troubling headlines from the past year and a half.

We realized that there is nothing in AEA policies or guiding principles addressing risks faced by evaluators (as opposed to evaluands). When looking at peer membership organizations, like the American Sociological Association and the American Anthropological Association, we realized that they both had explicit policies on sexual harassment as well as policies around codes of conduct for their conferences and convenings. We used our session to explore specific safeguards that could be put into place and to generate a call to action for AEA to be more aligned with our peers and to better protect the safety of its members.

Cool Trick: We held time for break-out discussions and report backs among our session attendees. Our session generated a lively discussion and a strong support for an AEA Conference Code of Conduct.

We now understand that AEA is working to develop a Conference Code of Conduct and look forward to seeing it. We also urge AEA to consider developing a policy on harassment.

Rad Resources:

American Anthropological Association’s policy on Sexual Harassment and Assault

American Sociological Association’s Anti-Harassment Resources

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Feminist Issues in Evaluation (FIE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the FIE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our FIE TIG 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.




4 thoughts on “FIE TIG Week: Evaluation in the Era of #MeToo by Kate Locke and Rose Konecky”

  1. Hi Kate and Rose,
    I am a graduate student at Queen’s University and found your entry about evaluation and the #MeToo movement to be very interesting. For my Program Inquiry and Evaluation course, we have learnt a lot about misuse and how evaluators can be swayed out of compassion to change the findings of an evaluation. I don’t think it was ever explicitly articulated how sexual harassment can play a part in the findings and yet, as your article demonstrates, this is quite common in the evaluation field. You mentioned AEA is putting into place policies to prevent such things from happening, yet the nature of evaluation often requires one on one meetings behind closed doors. How do you think evaluation can still occur in the manner it should while still encouraging safe work spaces?

  2. This subject is super important topic to discuss. Thank you so much for writing about it and trying to get everyone’s attention. It was very interesting and much needed.

  3. Hi Kate and Rose,
    I’m a Master’s student at Queen’s University in the Faculty of Education, currently completing a course on Program Inquiry and Evaluation. As part of this course, we have frequently been referring to the AEA365 article database for helpful articles and to select ones that interest us personally. I was drawn to your article because it is current and deals with a very relevant and relatively new topic (the #MeToo movement). I have closely followed this movement and associated hashtag and was interested to read about how you connected it with conducting program evaluations.

    I have never thought of program evaluators and the potential risks they are exposed to by the nature of their jobs. I suppose it goes without saying that everyone is at risk to experience “harassment and inappropriate conduct”, but do you think that evaluators are more at risk for harassment than those in other fields? What are the ‘riskiest’ parts of the job in your opinion? Do either of you have personal experience with harassment in the evaluation arena? It’s heartening to hear that there is an AEA Conference Code of Conduct in the works. Although it will certainly be useful for program evaluators to have that reference (and the policy on harassment you hope for), will the program managers and employees be subject to the rules and policies within?

    Thanks in advance for reading my thoughts!


    1. Hi Melissa, Thanks so much for commenting. We got into this in more depth in our session, but we frequently interview people we don’t know, behind closed doors, in locations that might be out of the way, etc. So definitely a level of risk there. Also, there are risks for folks in academia, which has been well-discussed elsewhere. I have not personally experienced harassment other than unwelcome comments on the state of my reproductive status, but know others have experienced assault in the evaluation space. I think the riskiest parts of the job are during data collection. Regarding the conference code of conduct, this would apply to conference attendees and not others. Please feel free to email with other questions klocke AT tccgrp.com

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