GEDI Week: Kwamé A. McIntosh on Using Culturally-Responsive Evaluation to build Interagency Collaboration

Greetings from Washington, D.C.! My name is Kwamé A. McIntosh, member of the American Evaluation Association’s Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) 2012-2013 cohort. Today, I am eager to share with you my experience that I had as an Assistant Education Evaluator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Office of Education (OED).

As a scholar, I was given an opportunity to conduct a process and outcome evaluation of five years of statistical data about the effectiveness of two scholarship programs for undergraduate students to expand their knowledge of the atmospheric, oceanic, and/or environmental sciences. Since the students participated in their internships within the summer, I would never have the opportunity to interact or engage with the clients. This meant developing a relationship with staff members who worked directly with the population to gain a viable understanding of the program and its participants, though the staff members for this program were located at another NOAA location. Though each site is under the umbrella of the OED, I was still an evaluator who was responsible for unveiling the effectiveness of the program.  Though it took time, through responsive pro-activity versus reactivity, I gained the insight needed to provide practical deliverables while assisting in solidifying the bridge between both facilities.

Lesson #1: Trust is earned, not given. The process of gaining trust may be the difference between empowering your client or becoming the enemy.

Lessons #2: It is the evaluator’s duty to be purposeful in engagement, not the client. In Hazel Symonette’s “Walking Pathways Toward Becoming a Culturally Competent Evaluator: Boundaries, Borderlands, and Border Crossings”, she highlights the need to have multilateral self-awareness by asking “Who do those that one is seeking to communicate with and engage perceive the evaluator as being?” Many times due to social misunderstandings of the role of evaluator, clients tend to become distrustful towards us, which will ultimately result of in difficulty in conducting the evaluation and/or not gaining valuable insight to truly impact the client. This can be addressed by constantly removing “self” out of its box and being willing to reform “self” in another completely for the sake of utilizable evaluation outcomes.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) Program week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s GEDI Program and its interns. For more information on GEDI, see their webpage here: http://www.eval.org/GEDI  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.

1 thought on “GEDI Week: Kwamé A. McIntosh on Using Culturally-Responsive Evaluation to build Interagency Collaboration”

  1. Hello Kwamé,
    I am currently taking a Program Evaluation course in the masters program at Queen’s University, and one of our assignments was to find an article that interests us and respond to the author. We have recently discussed dilemmas in evaluation use and one of the issues I explored was the difficulties that often arise with collaboration. I found your article very interesting as you discussed the importance of creating relationships and collaborating with clients. Creating positive client relationships and developing quality communication, are both important aspects that contribute to the successful growth of a program. However finding ways to achieve this can often be complex.
    You stated in your article that, because you were not able to directly engage with the clients, you instead relied on, “developing a relationship with staff members who worked directly with the population to gain a viable understanding of the program and its participants”. I really appreciate how you initiated building relationships using an alternative method in order to accomplish your goal. Building relationships was a common sentiment found in several of the articles I have read related to evaluation use. Shulha and Cousins state in their article that, “evaluators working in partnership with stakeholders are better able to stimulate knowledge production and promote positive reactions to evaluation findings” (1997, p. 200).

    I also found your lessons extremely interesting. Your advice of, “Trust is earned, not given” and “The process of gaining trust, may be the difference between empowering your client or becoming the enemy”, are powerful statements. Throughout this course, I have come to learn that establishing positive relationships with clients from the initial onset of the program and continuation throughout the evaluation process is crucial. As you mentioned, establishing trust is vital. It can lead to the development of positive connections which in turn, can increase the effectiveness of a program.
    I am continually learning about program evaluation and I really enjoyed reading about your personal experience. Thanks for sharing.
    Dana Carter

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