GBEN Affiliate Week: Making Space for Equitable Evaluation Discussions by Fatima Fairfax

Hello! I am Fatima Fairfax. I am getting my PhD in Sociology at Duke University and am a member of the Greater Boston Evaluation Network’s (GBEN) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. In this blog post I’m going to tell you about an on-going discussion group I help host for GBEN members. This was developed directly in response to some of the strategies that emerged from GBEN’s strategic planning process. Specifically: 

  • Fostering a culture of shared knowledge: Recognizing that learning and networking go hand in hand, we will foster a culture of shared knowledge among evaluators of different backgrounds and across career stages. We prioritize exchange of ideas over imparting expertise at our professional development events.
  • Professional and social support: We want GBEN members to have people to turn to for both professional networking and whole self support. GBEN members with professional connections or knowledge support those seeking these resources.

With these strategies in mind, we wanted our affiliate to create spaces for practitioners to work through the challenges they were facing in their implementation of equitable evaluation practices. While frameworks and guides exist for equitable evaluation, some of our members felt that those frameworks can be too abstract or too daunting as a starting place. Additionally, they often don’t address some of the organizational barriers that were preventing evaluators in our community from applying these concepts in their roles, in their organizations, and with their clients. 

What We Tried: Equitable Evaluation Discussions

With our goals to create organic and engaging spaces for members to deepen and grow their practices around equitable evaluation, we developed an unstructured environment to discuss the successes and challenges of advancing equitable evaluation in their practice. We knew that we wanted it to be flexible, open to all, but also focused – and we need it to be as low-prep and high-impact to support participants (after all, this is a volunteer organization!). 

We advertised the meetings through our newsletter and via emails to members to invite as many of our members as possible. We set the discussions to occur every six weeks, to be regular enough to build community but not so often that it was unsustainable. Each meeting (and therefore invitation to attend) included a short article or text that was shared prior to the conversation. The text could be a framework, a case study, a discussion of the latest hot topic, etc. – check out which ones we used in our Rad Resources below! As a result of this format, we have the opportunity to base each meeting around a particular text, but we aren’t beholden to it. It’s peer to peer learning and attendees decide where to take the conversation. 

How it Went: Success!

One of our first calls turned into an advising session for an attendee who shared challenges they were facing while trying to adhere to a more equitable standard. That helped us realize that we don’t have to over plan for these sessions and that it’s more important to consistently make the space available than have the perfect meeting topic, pre-reading, or activity. Having these conversations validates that equitable evaluation is possible but can be challenging, and it is rarely a linear process. We hope that it results in our attendees recognizing that they are not alone in their equitable evaluation work and that it leaves them feeling more confident and capable to start implementing equitable evaluation within their own practice. 

Rad Resources:

These are the articles that we used to jump start meetings one and two respectively:

Lessons Learned:

This is a great low-lift/light touch way to get conversations on equitable evaluation going with a big pay off for our members. 

The American Evaluation Association is hosting the Greater Boston Evaluation Network (GBEN) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from GBEN 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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