My name is Ebony Reddock. I am the owner of Bumblebee Design and Evaluation and a Senior Evaluation Consultant at Michigan Public Health Institute. When I decided to start my own business, in part I did it to be able to structure my practice in service to Southeastern Michigan more deliberately than I could as the member of an organization. I most enjoy projects where I can share resources and learnings I’ve gathered with community partners (like a bee spreads pollen from flower to flower).
However, as I have deepened my expertise in the culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE) approaches, I increasingly value my place-based lens and its role in my practice. Some approaches to evaluation lean heavily into the idea of objectivity–that evaluation is best conducted from a professional distance, with as much of the evaluator’s self removed from the process. But I have never found that to be true. Our selves are always part of our decision making in the evaluation process.. While identity in CREE is often associated with social identity markers like race, gender, and sexual identity, it also applies to residence. In embracing CREE approaches, I can leverage my full self in my work, including my love for my home state. I find this affords me a more nuanced understanding of place that guides evaluation decision making.
When I still taught and supervised junior evaluators, I would tell them, “everything is data.” Even when I am not “working”, I am always learning new things about Southeastern Michigan that enrich my projects. Residing where my projects take place affords me potentially valuable leads on the historical and current contexts of the programs I evaluate. For example, when volunteering, I learn about social resources available to community members and their awareness of such, including programs I am evaluating. When having conversations with strangers in grocery stores (because Michiganders are “Michigan-nice” and we chat in lines), I pick up on potentially important ideas about how suburban, rural, and urban residents view other parts of the state and the residents that live within them. For my work, this matters. People drive policy, and policy drive programs.
I also see the value of wearing my community member hat when I establish new partnerships. Because I am a solo practitioner, there is little separation between myself and my business. Bumblebee is Ebony, and Ebony is Bumblebee. And because I can refer to past experiences, shared colleagues, current events and other markers of belonging, I carry an authenticity into these relationships that strengthens bonds. Ultimately, my partners know that I love this community, warts and all. I was born here, I live here, and I will probably die here. Before I go, I want to know I have made a positive impact on the place I love, both personally and professionally.
To conclude, I offer some resources on culturally responsive and equitable evaluation that have guided my thinking and practice. Both Public Policy Associates’ Considerations for Conducting Evaluation Using a Culturally Responsive and Racial Equity Lens and Kristine Andrews, Jenita Parekh, and Shantai Peckoo’s How to Embed a Racial and Ethnic Equity Perspective in Research offer concrete checklists on CREE practice. Hazel Symonette’s Cultivating Self as Responsive Instrument: Working the Boundaries and Borderlands for Ethical Border Crossings (The Handbook of Social Research Ethics, Donna Mertens and Pauline Ginsberg (eds), 2008) offers a thoughtful piece on using the self in our work. Finally, the Equitable Evaluation Initiative’s Equitable Evaluation Framework Framing Paper describes an alternative perspective on the purpose of evaluation.
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