Hello! I’m Andrea Nelson Trice, an independent evaluation consultant as well as a Senior Fellow with the Sagamore Institute. I spent part of my childhood living in the Peruvian rainforest and that experience shaped my life’s work. For over two decades, I have conducted research on cross-cultural dynamics and have just completed a book project that included interviews with 90 people from around the globe who work in international development.
As I listened to individuals from the Majority World, they mentioned several factors that they believe hinder Americans’ ability to be culturally responsive in their work, including:
- Americans often work at a distance from the people they seek to help Proximity Restoration Empowerment
“They live on a hill with big SUVs. I don’t know how they get to know what they need to learn by not living on the ground.” – Ugandan social entrepreneur
- Americans frequently emphasize technological innovation over restoration
“The minute you bring in something from the outside, we ask why.” – Ghanaian social entrepreneur
“Use the skills I already have and use my basic technology and my basic need to uplift, to make me better.” – Zimbabwean social entrepreneur
- Americans tend to focus on addressing a material problem rather than empowering individuals and communities.
“Don’t be content with just giving services. Empower people in the community to give the services themselves.” – Kenyan leader of an NGO
As evaluators, I believe we have a responsibility not only to measure a project’s positive and negative impact, but also to ask important questions about the assumptions that initially shaped project goals. For example, what do project leaders believe needs to change within the community? What do they believe should stay the same? How have cultural norms shaped these beliefs?
Evaluating international projects in a culturally responsive way requires understanding how Americans’ cultural norms differ from the local culture. The following resources offer important insights for those who have never studied American culture in any systematic way.
Build Strong, Build Together: Creating Social Enterprises That Truly Transform (Upcoming August 2021)
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