LA RED Week: Josie Serrata, Martha Hernandez and Grisel M. Robles-Schrader on Building the Evaluation Capacity of Latina/o Community Based Organizations as Transformation

?Saludos! We are evaluators and researchers who work alongside Latina/o communities, Josie Serrata and Martha Hernandez work at the National Latin@ Network, a project of Casa de Esperanza, a nationally recognized culturally-specific community based organization (CBO). Grisel M. Robles-Schrader, is President of Robles-Schrader Consulting. As supporting members of the newly formed LA RED network, this post focuses on our respective work with Latina/a Community-Based Organization.

Historical marginalization is alive and well in the Latina/o community and CBOs experience it in different ways. We see it in the underfunding of community-based initiatives and the devaluing of community ways of knowing. Despite limited resources that this environment creates, CBOs continue to do (and have done so for decades) amazing things alongside Latina/o community members and have a tremendous impact on individuals and systems alike. We would like to share some lessons we have learned working alongside Latina/o CBOs.

Lesson Learned #1: What we see often is that CBOs have developed their own language for developing their work, tracking and improving what they do, etc. (what we call evaluation). What is often missing is the language to communicate to external funders and evaluators what they have done and how they have done it. In other words, CBOs and evaluators/funders are often speaking different languages; this is where building evaluation capacity can be transformative.

Lesson Learned #2: By building a CBO’s evaluation capacity the power shifts from the evaluator to the CBO, where the CBO begins to decode the language of evaluation and understand it within their own frameworks of knowledge. When this shift happens, we have seen that CBOs begin to communicate their work in the language that external entities can understand without losing what is important to them. Being able to “speak” the language of evaluation allows CBOs to access more resources, increase their capacity to work with external evaluators (of their choosing), and ultimately lifts up grassroots work.

Lesson Learned #3: Engaging CBO staff, evaluators and funders in conversations about the evaluation goals and the evaluation design through the lens of capacity building from the onset is critical to this process. These dialogues can help increase shared understanding of language and should include discussions regarding expectations, different ways of knowing, existing resources, and capacity building needs.

Rad Resources: Martín-Baró, Aron, and Corne’s Writings for a liberation psychology.

This is an excellent resource for those who are interested in conducting work with historically marginalized communities in a way that is transformative.

Mertens’ Transformative research and evaluation.

This resource centralizes human rights in research and evaluation and encourages readers to conduct research and evaluation through a lens of mutual respect, social justice, and equity.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Latina/o Responsive Evaluation Discourse Network Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from LA RED Network 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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