LA RED TIG WEEK: What about Positionality? A Brief Reflection on How We Can Approach Participatory and Equity Evaluation by Jessica Saucedo and Tatiana Elisa Bustos

Hello LaRED TIG! We are Jessica Saucedo, a PhD student studying community psychology and Tatiana Elisa Bustos, PhD, with interests in health equity research, implementation science, and equitable evaluation with Indigenous and Latinx communities. Lately, we’ve been reflecting on how our positionality or stance influences any evaluation or research work.

From Jessica

I am a young adult, cisgender, heterosexual Latina who grew up an as an only child, in a heavily collectivistic family living in Southern California. I am a proud first-generation college student because both my parents supported my pursuit of higher education. Since beginning graduate school, I have continuously reflected on how my experiences influence my work and explore paradigms to root my work in that align with my own values.

As an evaluator in training, my role continues to evolve from student to equitable evaluator with (possibly) a participatory action research paradigm. Although I strongly root my work values in participatory research, I write “possibly” because I am willing to shift into a pragmatic paradigm based on what my stakeholders need. Can an evaluator with a participatory action research paradigm use an evaluation framework that does not particularly align with participatory action research? Does pragmatism align with participatory and/or equitable evaluation?

From Tatiana

I am a first-generation college and PhD graduate, a child of Nicaraguan immigrants, cisgender, heterosexual, Brown Latina who grew up in the city of Hialeah. My first language growing up was Spanish. I attended predominantly HSIs throughout elementary, middle, and high schools but completed my graduate degrees in a PWI. I think about the value of positionality in the context of equity work, particularly when we work towards making health or education disparities more equitable across groups that are racialized and exposed to more harm. In approaching equity work, it is important to think about how our identities and privileges are also being integrated into the process. How does my privilege as a Latina with a doctorate or expertise as an evaluator both benefit the efforts of the community I am part of but also how can I potentially contribute harm in the assumption that I belong to this community? I am constantly learning how my identities can be both helpful yet harmful and constantly change with the context. In that, I am adjusting and learning to challenge assumptions while also listening to the community as experts in the room. In working towards equity, I reflect on my identities and how it impacts the work, how I speak, and who I think holds the expertise throughout the evaluation process (even as early as initial meetings with key partners). 

I reflect on something that was shared from one of my community partners when asked about how we can improve collaboration efforts for equity work: “Sometimes, the loudest voice in the room isn’t the one we should be listening to.” There is more room for discussions on positionality in equity work. I encourage practitioners to be more explicit about how this influences the work and strategies for other novice evaluators to consider. One resource I found (but have yet to try) is incorporating self-reflections into co-creation of resources. What other strategies have you used for reflections in equity work? 

We recommend the following: 

  • continuously reflecting on your own stance and how it will impact your work,
  • talking with your peers about how they’ve selected the paradigm they work with,
  • being real with yourself and with your stakeholders before and during the evaluation, and
  • sharing out resources or strategies that incorporate self-reflections into the work for explicit discussions on positionality and equity with community partners.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting La RED TIG Week with our colleagues in the La RED Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our La RED 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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