I’m Rita Fierro from Fierro Consulting and I specialize in working with vulnerable populations in a more inclusive way. An inclusive conversation is one in which differences in perspectives are leveraged as opportunities instead of threats or ignored.
Lessons Learned: To suggest to a client that a gender-responsive evaluation or an inclusive facilitation process is needed (along gender, race, ethnic, class, or sexual orientation lines), I must know how to advocate for inclusion. The client has to see the benefits of including more stakeholders to participate in the planning stages of the work:
- Effective strategies. If only men or only professionals are involved in planning a strategy or an initiative for a more diverse audience, the approach will be ineffective once it faces a wider audience. Learning how to talk with someone who doesn’t move, talk, think, or look like you to get back insightful feedback early on is essential to having a positive impact.
- Sustainability. When we build our capacity to have inclusive conversations, we learn to see common threads between our passions and those of others. We build more effective partnerships and discover more support than we thought possible. Initiatives take legs of their own; people continue to invest when the funding ends.
- Wisdom. Often people on the margins disengage because they understand and see things that people in charge missed. Without an opportunity to voice their critique, they give up. Inclusive conversations help surface hidden information. For instance, recipients may voice threats of gender violence as a result of participating in the evaluation.
- Creativity. Building your ability to plan and talk across differences means building your capacity to be creative, flexible, original, genuine, and positive at the same time. These skills are helpful in other areas, too.
- Authenticity. Misunderstandings among differences often come from some pushing to be heard or others pulling away for not being heard. Emotions build up and fester. When we are more inclusive, we create opportunities to voice tensions and listen deeply so people can be seen and heard. The result is often releasing of fear, anger, and shame and more compassion. The group can get much closer.
All the examples above focus on gender, but you can use other examples from your own context to advocate for inclusion. Make your own list: what do you see as the benefits of inclusion?
Rad Resource: Don’t know what an inclusive conversation looks like? Click here. Want to build your capacity to have inclusive conversations? Subscribe to my blog. I’m writing 13 posts on inclusive conversations.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.