GEDI Week: Danielle Cummings on Persuading Evaluators to Care About Cultural Responsiveness

My name is Danielle Cummings. I am an alumna of the Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) program and NYU’s Masters in Public Administration program. As a GEDI, I attended countless workshops, webinars, and discussion groups about culturally responsive evaluation. I noticed that, perhaps unsurprisingly, people who attended these events were either evaluators who were already concerned about cultural responsiveness, or new evaluators whose supervisors required their participation. Here are two roadblocks that prevent evaluators from engaging in professional development opportunities and conversations on cultural responsiveness, a truth and a myth:

Lessons Learned:

Truth: It’s an art, not a science. This is, perhaps, the aspect of culturally responsive evaluation that is most irksome to evaluators who tend to be trained in a social science discipline. There is no 10-step cultural responsiveness process; it’s honed through trial and error. No two situations will employ an identical culturally responsive design, so a culturally responsive practice is difficult to prescribe and nearly impossible to measure. 

Myth: If you use good research methods, you don’t need cultural responsiveness. Several recommendations that cultural responsiveness advocates promote look a lot like steps taken by a conscientious evaluator. Integrate qualitative and quantitative methods to get a more complete picture. Consider the social and political context when developing an evaluation plan and interpreting data. It’s easy to believe that a strong evaluation is, by nature, a culturally responsive evaluation.

It’s hard to view the elusive art of cultural responsiveness as a practical skill, but it can improve the quality and accuracy of evaluation findings as much as other more tangible skills. Here are three tips for turning a skeptic’s attention to cultural responsiveness.

Hot Tips:

Emphasize validity. Framing the need for cultural responsiveness in terms of validity will perk up most evaluators’ ears. Karen Kirkhart’s work on multicultural validity provides a strong case for making culture a priority.

Start the conversation. One often doesn’t think about culture until forced. It’s possible to get compelling evaluation results without cultural responsiveness, so the pressure to acknowledge culture rarely exists. Evaluators who have seen the culture light, so to speak, might consider speaking with their colleagues about the difference cultural responsiveness has made in their relationships with clients, outcomes authenticity, and their recommendations’ utility and implementation.

Make it an organizational priority. Support from organizational leadership is key to making cultural responsiveness a priority among staff members. If leadership supports cultural responsiveness, there may be increased professional development opportunities on cultural responsiveness, and the time required for culturally responsive approaches is more likely to be considered a budgetary priority when designing an evaluation.

Rad Resource:  Kirkhart’s presentation at the inaugural Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment conference is a good place to explore her work.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) Program week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s GEDI Program and its interns. For more information on GEDI, see their webpage here: 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 “GEDI Week: Danielle Cummings on Persuading Evaluators to Care About Cultural Responsiveness”

  1. Alisha Boeringa

    Hello, Danielle.
    As part of a course that I am taking about Program Evaluation, I have been learning about the responsibility of evaluators to ensure use. I am very new to learning about program evaluation, but I appreciate your article on the importance of cultural responsiveness.
    I find it very unfortunate that, as you stated, many evaluators do not think that cultural responsiveness is important. I can see that an evaluation that does not take cultural diversity and influence into consideration will be missing an integral part. Cultural responsiveness will allow the evaluator to get a better picture of the evaluation and therefore, to have more authentic results and outcomes. Unless the organization or group believes that an evaluation truly reflects their best interests, use of the evaluation will be decreased significantly.
    Thank you for sharing your tips on how to increase cultural responsiveness in a meaningful way. I look forward to doing further research on this topic using your Rad Resource.
    Alisha Boeringa

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