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GEDI Week: Kenneth Pass on Cultural Responsiveness and Community Engagement in Health, Evaluation, and Philanthropy

Hello, my name is Kenneth Pass. I am a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University and a recent Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) program alumnus. During my GEDI internship at Growth Capital Network in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I engaged in various health, evaluation, and philanthropic projects with state and local community organizations. Throughout this internship I have learned important lessons on community-centered frameworks, diverse health programs throughout the state, proposal and grant evaluation, and metric and other measurement development.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Know who is speaking and who is contributing to that voice. When working with state and local community organizations that are submitting grant proposals to philanthropic and other funding organizations, it is important to know about the applicant and the community they serve, and what major partners and stakeholders are involved. This information ensures that you are able to understand the organization and what role it plays and if it is community centered in that role.
  1. Take stock of evaluation capacity and investment. Often I observed that applicants either did not have the capacity to develop and implement an evaluation or prioritize program evaluation. This was an important moment for me – and the applicants. Their lack of evaluation capacities or investment limited how they approached and understood the benefits of program evaluation. Being able to assess an applicant’s capacity and investment in evaluation and provide feedback on the meaning, significance, and benefits of evaluation is essential to helping improve community health, as well as working relationships with philanthropic and other funding organizations.
  1. Encourage potential grantees to think about disparities within communities. While evaluating applicant proposals, I considered Lessons 1 and 2. I thought more critically about how minority groups would benefit from proposed health programs and initiatives and how communities were being engaged throughout the development, implementation, and evaluation of these health programs. Applicants’ programs often involved marginalized or underserved sections of their communities so understanding how proposals addressed gender and racial/ethnic health disparities was key. Given the health burdens that women and people of color carry throughout Michigan and the United States, encouraging state and local community organizations to pay attention to the health disparities present in their communities is crucial to increasing the benefit and scope of any health program.

Through the GEDI internship, I learned more not only about health, evaluation, and philanthropy but also about the importance of discovering, valuing, and centering community voices in program evaluation.

Rad Resources:

  1. Template for Analyzing Philanthropic Programs Through a Culturally Responsive and Racial Equity Lens
  2. Advancing Evaluation Practices in Philanthropy by Aspen Institute Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation

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: http://www.eval.org/GEDI 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “GEDI Week: Kenneth Pass on Cultural Responsiveness and Community Engagement in Health, Evaluation, and Philanthropy”

  1. Great article. I have encountered two types of findings when it comes to Donors, Beneficiaries and Programme Implementers. I am currently working on an Evaluation whereby a youth development organisation is being evaluated on how they have contributed to the lives of youth at risk in low income areas in rural South Africa.

    I had a workshop to map out the programme theory, beneficiary journey and programme timeline with the implementing organisation. It was interesting to hear how the organisation understood the community needs and how it related to the work they were trying to do, and the change they wished to facilitate as they demonstrated a deep level of understanding. When conducting focus groups with the beneficiaries that have graduated from the programme, a lot of what was being said aligned with the articulated programme theory and outcomes that the programme staff identified.

    With regards to your point number 2, the organisation that I work for works closely together with funders, and there is an understanding (in most cases) about the importance of M&E and how to make responsible social investments. However, the translation beyond the routine monitoring reports and the planned Evaluations are necessary so that the programmes and its beneficiaries that we work with are able to foster better change within the condition in which the programmes are being implemented.

    Point number 3 that you raise is a very important factor when it comes to South Africa’s social investment landscape. Due to the structurial and socio-economic inequalities left behind by Apartheid, many non-profit organisations are having to rethink how they design their programmes to be more atuned to community needs. Some organisations follow a benevolent or charity model, whereby the needs of the community are understood as a transaction of giving and receiving, as opposed to a model of working together to change the dynamics of a community problem.

    Thanks for sharing!


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