FIE TIG Week: Cultural competence and power issues in evaluations, reflections from a gender transformative perspective by Silvia Salinas-Mulder and Fabiola Amariles-Erazo

Hi, we are Silvia Salinas-Mulder and Fabiola Amariles-Erazo, independent evaluators from Bolivia and Colombia. In recent years we have dedicated our research and capacity development efforts to advance knowledge about cultural competence in evaluation with a feminist approach, mainly in Latin American & Caribbean (LAC), a region with high inequalities and a strong colonialist and patriarchal culture.

Some themes like culture sensitiveness, respect for culture and interculturality have been present in the development field for some time, usually meaning abstract concepts that may be misleading when applied in practice. In evaluations the requirement for context knowledge implies a static and usually operational approach that lacks questioning key structural issues, or taking a political stand about the context.

Ignoring cultural issues related to structural societal inequalities contributes to their perpetuation. Therefore, addressing the question of “who a good evaluator is?” from the perspective of the “no one left behind” paradigm of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG),  demands building comprehensive competencies profiles (a corporate practice applied to evaluation) including knowledge, skills, attitudes and values. It means defining those competencies that prepare evaluators to understand and address the interconnected inequalities and injustices in specific contexts, to know how to face the dilemmas involved and to assume a position conductive to social change.

For the practice of evaluation it is important to understand that cultural competence is not only something technical that you learn from a textbook, it implies ethical clarity, self-awareness and reflexivity, and a political pro-equality and pro-human rights stance. You need to master competencies to detect and provide evidences of existing inequalities and biased situations that can be transformed through the actions of the policy, program or project being evaluated. And act assertively to be a facilitator of the transformations needed to overcome power imbalances and inequalities, while inducing equity and equality attitudes among evaluation commissioners and practitioners.

Hot Tips: To build competencies profiles:

  • Involve evaluators from different sectors (public sector, academia, civil society) to exchange ideas about culturally competent evaluation practices in their respective roles.
  • Think out of the box when developing competencies profiles to include concepts like leadership, change agents, advocacy.
  • Get inputs from “cultural brokers” who can provide information about their contexts. 

Lessons Learned:

Competencies profiles need to be linked to evaluation standards and evaluation quality criteria. The Latin American & Caribbean Network RELAC has initiated actions to review its evaluation standards with a cultural and gender perspective.

Rad 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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