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Independent Consulting (IC) TIG Week: Uplifting Voices: Embedding Equity Practices as Independent Consultants by Tasha Parker

Dr. Tasha Parker Ph.D., LSCSW, MPA, ACHT

Hi AEA365! I am Dr. Tasha Parker Ph.D., LSCSW, MPA, ACHT. As an independent consultant, I am not just a practitioner but a catalyst for transformative change in the field of evaluation. My unique role allows me to bring diverse perspectives and stories to the forefront. Operating outside the confines of a traditional organization, I can innovate and create practices that genuinely honor and amplify the voices of those we aim to serve while acknowledging and challenging where we fall short. This flexibility is a powerful tool that can be used to challenge systemic inequities and create pathways to healing for marginalized communities. To kick off the IC TIG takeover, I would like to share how I have leveraged my position as an independent consultant to do just that.

My primary strategy for practicing equity and uplifting voices is directly involving the community in the evaluation work by partnering with community members, program implementers, and recipients of efforts and inviting them to participate as evaluation team members, liaisons, or reviewers. This has allowed me to gain invaluable insights into the cultural nuances and lived experiences that help shape the evaluations and provide a context that would likely have been missed. This collaborative and participatory approach has continued to enrich my findings and foster a sense of ownership and trust within the community.

Hot Tips

  • A critical practice when including community voices is ensuring compensation. Even when the budget is too low to compensate everyone, I adapted to raffling fewer compensation opportunities rather than completely removing compensation. By valuing the time and expertise of those with lived experiences, we acknowledge their contributions and demonstrate that their involvement is essential to the success of the evaluation.
  • Another practice is reviewing and analyzing data with participants. This approach demystifies the evaluation process and can redistribute power to participants to interpret data in ways that resonate with their experiences. In one project focusing on health disparities in marginalized communities, we held data review sessions where community members could discuss preliminary findings. These sessions revealed interpretations and trends not immediately apparent to my team. Moreover, participants reported feeling validated and respected, knowing their voices were not just heard but actively shaping the narrative.
  •  Reviewing reports with participants and incorporating their feedback into the final deliverable is another way to ensure that the findings are accurate and respectful of the community’s context. Feedback can often highlight areas where our language needs to be more sensitive and provide additional recommendations we had not considered. This iterative process has improved the quality of our reporting and also taken steps to repair and strengthen our relationship with the communities.

These practices are not just about being equitable but fundamentally shifting the power dynamics in evaluation. As independent consultants, we are not bound by institutional constraints that often prioritize efficiency over equity. We can take the time to build genuine relationships, listen deeply, and adapt our methods to meet the needs of the communities we serve. We are leading to more accurate and meaningful evaluations and contributing to the healing of historically marginalized communities.

I believe we are privileged to occupy the space in the field of evaluation as independent consultants. With that privilege, we are responsible to those most impacted by the programs and policies we evaluate. That responsibility is beyond fancy reports, data visualizations, and deliverables. We are responsible for uplifting voices and ensuring those voices are incorporated into usable and actionable results. I hope you enjoy our week of posts as you will hear from more independent consultants about how we use innovative ways to practice equity and uplift the voices of those often silenced.

Happy reading,

Dr. Tasha Parker
2024 IC TIG Chair

The American Evaluation Association is hosting 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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