IC TIG Week: Evaluation as a Tool for Social Justice by Chad E. Kee

Hi! I’m Chad E. Kee, Ph.D., CEO and Founder of  WhitworthKee Consulting, LLC. The COVID-19 pandemic and police brutality leading to the death of yet another Black person, George Floyd, are highlighting—yet again—systemic racism that exists in our society.  As a Black male, I am disturbed by the current state of our society and find myself looking for opportunities to be part of the change. I am compelled to use my research and evaluation platform, as a small business owner in Washington, D.C., to advance social justice.

In this climate, it is of great importance to identify spaces to counter injustice and support social justice efforts. As a result, I invite independent consultants to consider and create intentional opportunities to use evaluation as a tool for social justice. My research and evaluation services often examine equitable practices within organizations. I would like to call attention to the impact an evaluation can have on advancing social justice efforts through three practices: incorporating ongoing and active participatory analysis, demonstrating behaviors and an attitude of care, and adopting an equity mindset.

Lesson Learned:

Participatory analysis practices offer many benefits to an evaluation. Such practices increase stakeholder ownership of the data, empower stakeholder voices, and create space to share lived experiences. Alvarez and colleagues advanced the notion of Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA), defined as, “…engaging stakeholders in a structured participatory process, promoting learning, and providing a framework for ‘action research’ on processes of change.” PIPA creates the space for change that can lead to advancing social justice efforts by impacting an individual, group of people, or community outcomes in positive ways.

Lesson Learned:

An evaluator demonstrates care by identifying, accepting, and adopting the ways that everyone is connected as humans and co-exists in society. Tronto and Fisher, Toward a Feminist Theory of Caring, presented the idea that interconnectedness across communities is a standard of ethics that can be used to guide an evaluation with care. Considering the politicized context in which evaluators work, Visse and Abma argued in their book, Evaluation for a Caring Society, that applying an ethical practice of caring can foster evaluations that advance social justice efforts. Evaluators are encouraged to prioritize the humanistic value and nature of the work while not allowing politics, personal biases, and money to influence the methodological approach and subsequent reporting of findings.

Lesson Learned:

In Iseke-Barnes & Wane’s book, Equity in Schools and Society, an equity mindset is defined as acknowledging diverse histories, sociology, cultural expressions, theory, and more when examining issues that affect access to resources. When evaluators adopt an equity mindset, they are less likely to cause harm and more likely to construct culturally responsive and socially just evaluations. An equity mindset creates a greater sense of thoughtfulness and respect for those involved and leads to asking critical questions that may be uncomfortable but are necessary to advance social justice efforts in evaluation practice.

As an independent consultant and evaluator, I believe that our work has far reaching implications and the potential to change attitudes, enhance the lived experiences of marginalized communities, and promote social justice. 

Social Justice Evaluation Diagram

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “IC TIG Week: Evaluation as a Tool for Social Justice by Chad E. Kee”

  1. Good afternoon Dr. Lee,

    First off, thank you for your efforts in advancing social justice. Like you I am disturbed by the current state of society, and I am also looking for opportunities to be part of the reform movement. The murder of George Floyd was shocking and horrifying.
    I am intrigued by your invitation to independent consultants to consider creating opportunities to use evaluation as a tool for social justice. After studying evaluation theory and practice for the last six weeks, I did not realize the impact evaluation can have on advancing social justice efforts. You mention that, participatory analysis practices, “…create space to share lived experiences”. The space and shared experiences you refer to can lead to change and this change then leads to advancements in social justice. This is quite inspiring and hopeful in a time where hope seems scant and lost. You also use the term “interconnectedness” which you apply to communities and ethics, which “guide an evaluation with care”. Again, this interconnectedness and ethics can advance social justice efforts. In short, more hope! You also discuss an equity mindset that evaluators can adopt. This approach can be “culturally responsive” and result in “socially just evaluations”. Your article is quite illuminating and has helped me realize that evaluation is not just about data collection and analysis and unpacking interview questions and organizing rating scales. Evaluation can be transformative.
    After reading your blog post, I did some research and found that there is an established theoretical framework for conducting research and evaluation that contributes to social justice; it is aptly named, transformative evaluation. That is very intriguing to me.
    When I feeling a bit of curriculum drag or have existential moments concerning the teaching profession, I often times think about what else I could possible do as a career. This is the first time I think I have an answer. Transformative evaluation is very intriguing and a worthy pursuit of future research.
    Thank you so much.

  2. I am interested in seeing how evaluation can be used as a tool to promote, advance, social justice. I see that the three lessons mentioned here can help to identify where social justice might be absent, and I welcome stronger participatory and more sensitive evaluation methodologies. However, it felt less clear on how it could be advanced.
    People, and communities, that suffer from social injustice don’t need to be told this. They know this instinctively, and in reality. They might not recognise the terminology and language, but they know they are suffering injustice, whatever form that might take. To me, an evaluation that simply confirms social injustice is academic, irrelevant and somewhat patronising.
    So, how can evaluators be agents in advancing social justice, if that is indeed what we want to be?
    Carrying out an evaluation is to make a judgement and, in making that judgement, to what extent should we leave aside our own values? Do we want to stand with those suffering social injustice, or should we be neutral? In wanting to advance social justice, I would have thought it helpful that values should be grounded in solidarity?
    Is a first step for evaluators to recognise their own privilege in relation to participants? It doesn’t seem an unreasonable approach.
    Sorry if this is a bit of a ramble, but this is close to my heart. If we truly want to advance social justice, then we cannot be neutral, we have to be active agents.
    Kevin

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