How do I Include Social Justice in My Work? by James Groh

My name is James Groh, I’m an epidemiologist at the Marion County Public Health Department in Indianapolis where I’m evaluating our Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program which addresses racial inequities in chronic disease.

As an evaluator, it is imperative to not only understand why social justice relates to my work but how to include it as well. Often times, we may know why social justice is important, but don’t quite understand what that looks like in terms of evaluation. Here are a few tips to get started:

Hot Tip: Self-reflexivity is essential. The first step towards including social justice in evaluation is to understand yourself and how you relate to your work. It is important to know what power and privilege you hold. How do your identities, power, and privilege influence your evaluation approach? Do you have trust within the communities that are a part of your evaluation?

Tip in Action: Using self-reflexive prompts to journal or have conversations with others is helpful to understand how your positionality and power influence your evaluation work. 

Self-reflexivity Rad Resources:

Reflections on Researcher Identity and Power by Michael Muhammad et al. 

Attending to culture, diversity, and equity in STEM program evaluation by Ayesha Boyce

Cultural Humility by Vivian Chávez

Hot Tip: Implement a PAR Approach. Participatory Action Research (PAR) has the potential to empower communities by recognizing them as a key partner throughout the evaluation process—from problem identification, methodology, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of results—since they are experts of their lived experiences. As evaluators, it is important to continually demonstrate that we value communities and their contributions. As such, it is important to establish relationships and trust which often consists of conversations about motives, power, and privilege (which is why self-reflexivity is essential!).

Tip in Action: Partnering with community champions can be a great approach to community engagement since they are trusted individuals within the community and can help evaluators navigate community dynamics and establish relationships. 

PAR Approach Rad Resources:

Negotiating the Challenges of Participatory Action Research (Chapter 41) by Jill Grant, Geoffrey Nelson and Terry Mitchell

The Power and the Promise by Suzanne Cashman et al. 

Hot Tip: Share decision making in disseminating results. Too often, communities involved in evaluation are not included in the dissemination and portrayal of findings. This may lead to feelings of exploitation and mistrust among communities since they do not have control over their own narratives. It is important for the community to be involved in the dissemination process—even academic publications—so that they maintain ownership of their experiences.

Tip in Action: Dialogue with communities regarding the dissemination of results should begin before any evaluation has started to allow for transparency and trust. 

Disseminating Results Rad Resources:

Beyond the Journal Article (Chapter 23) by Caitlin Cahill and María Elena Torre

Theorizing Audience, Products and Provocation (Chapter 27) by Michelle Fine and María Elena Torre

Looking for more resources? Check back tomorrow for Day 4 of MIE TIG Social Justice Week.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Multicultural Issues in Evaluation (MIE) TIG Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our MIE 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 “How do I Include Social Justice in My Work? by James Groh”

  1. Hi James,

    Your post has provided a number of opportunities for self-reflection as a new evaluator. As an educator, it is important that we understand our own power, privilege, and experiences and what impact they have on our teaching practice. As an evaluator, this is equally as important. I especially appreciate the resources you provided, specifically Attending to culture, diversity, and equity in STEM program evaluation by Ayesha Boyce. This resource ties in perfectly with your first point on self-reflexivity and being aware of our own perspectives. Your tip in connecting with community leaders is a brilliant way to get to know the community involved in your evaluation and build trust between yourself and the community. Building those relationships is the first step to working collaboratively with communities and involving them wholly in the evaluation process. I also really liked the emphasis on communities being the owners of their narratives. This is very interesting to consider when conducting evaluations and disseminating results. It’s an almost poetic concept to think of evaluation as story telling! Thank you for providing this opportunity for self-reflection.

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