FIE TIG Week: Evaluators as true partners in dismantling white supremacy and creating a more equitable and just society by Cynthia Roberts, Veronica Smith & Martina Todaro

Hi everyone! We are: Cynthia Roberts, Empowerment Evaluator with the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Veronica Smith, founder and principal scientist at data2insight, Martina Todaro, associate in Research-Evaluation-Learning at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

We will share a few ideas for how evaluators can be equitable and culturally responsive in their approaches, and one example of how these practices are used in our work.

AEA principles D and E describe features of practicing equity in evaluation and being a culturally humble and responsive evaluator.

Similarly, the Equitable Evaluation Initiative and the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment invite evaluators and researchers to take a culturally responsive and equity-minded stance in their theory and practice, with a focus on: 1) reflecting the diverse values and perspectives of key stakeholders, 2) unveiling historic disadvantage and existing structural inequalities, 3) mitigating bias and potential power imbalances that can occur as a result of the evaluation’s context, and 4) self-assessing one’s own privilege and positioning within that context.

Community agreements and cultural norms can be useful facilitation tools to put these principles into practice. For example:

Rad Resource 1: The Norms for Courageous Conversations workshop can be used to teach people attitudes and behaviors that are supportive of meaningful conversations about racism, sexism, white supremacy, bias, and other complex topics.

Rad Resource 2: Anti-Oppressive Resource & Training Alliance (AORTA) guidelines for anti-oppression facilitation include community agreements that can be useful for creating multicultural and anti-racist learning communities.

Hot Tip 1: Be intentional about the community norms you use and do not use. For example, AORTA described two community agreements they don’t tend to use: 1)assume best intentions and 2) default to trust.

Hot Tip 2: Consider characterizing the space you are creating and holding together as brave space, Brave space is one where people feel safe enough to take risks and speak their truth.

Here is Cynthia’s experience:

I was teaching participatory qualitative coding to an LGBTQ+ focused community group that operates with a racial equity focus. They had little experience with coding and I had little experience teaching this on an online platform to community-based folks. I leaned into my own ‘not knowing’, and co-facilitated with a community partner who had a growing capacity in coding. The level of vulnerability and the practicing of trust created a context in which participants felt compassion for the focus group subjects and a connection to the text we were coding. Together we embraced new learning in which participants expressed simultaneously feeling discomfort, connection, and excitement. By actively noting the element of white supremacy culture that tells us ‘progress is more,’ we embraced that sometimes, ‘progress is less.’

Practicing evaluation in ways that are anti-racist and culturally responsive requires an orientation toward ongoing humble collaboration and reflexivity, as one never ‘arrives.’ This work is a practiced disposition that evolves over time and embraces the discomfort of decentering one’s status as an expert. 

Please share norms or agreements you use in your practice!

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.

1 thought on “FIE TIG Week: Evaluators as true partners in dismantling white supremacy and creating a more equitable and just society by Cynthia Roberts, Veronica Smith & Martina Todaro”

  1. Thanks for the wonderful read. I am a teacher as well as an MEd student at Queen’s University currently studying Program Inquiry and Evaluation. I am always trying to better myself as an educator, and make the classroom more equitable, and the resources you shared are quite valuable! I look forward to sharing these with my colleagues as well as well as implementing these approaches in my classroom. I think the emphasis placed on vulnerability is important, as well as “establishing” a collective norm that is appropriate for the group. I am teaching online right now, and being vulnerable and flexible are definitely key components for both teaching and learning.

    Thanks for sharing!


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