LAWG Week: John Ridings on Social Justice and Non Profit Evaluation

Hello, my name is John Ridings and I’m a member of the Chicagoland Evaluation Association (CEA), along with being IRB Chair and faculty at the Institute for Clinical Social Work here in Chicago.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the distinct privilege of serving as evaluation director for two of the largest providers of social services in Chicago: The Salvation Army and Metropolitan Family Services. Over the course of this time I’ve encountered many suffering individuals, families, and communities – their stories of pain and struggle evident within the completed assessments and surveys that I collected from them. Single mothers trying to find out how to provide for their children and keep them safe. Parents trying to keep their kids in school. People searching for sanity and peace in an increasingly savage world.

Lessons Learned:

For me, these stories serve as a constant reminder that evaluation is in essence an exercise in social justice, that people in need and without means are as deserving of effective services as any of us. In my option, the best way for non-profits to promote social justice is to evaluate and evaluate well. As many of my CEA colleagues have already stated in prior AEA365 contributions, the resources in Chicago can be thought of as a fixed pie that gets smaller by the day. No longer can we afford to “guess” if programs are working or not. No longer can we operate in the dark.

Hot Tip: One of the most useful skills I learned to prepare me for a career as a non-profit evaluator was how to conduct a stakeholder analysis taught by John Bryson through The Evaluators’ Institute. I use it as a set up for every major program development and evaluation initiative I’m involved with.

Hot Tip: Don’t be afraid to stop folks in the downtown area and ask for directions if you need them. Chicagoans are pretty proud of their city and will usually share their favorite local places to eat, drink and play.

Rad Resources: I have used training and products from Concept Systems Inc. to promote social justice a wide range of groups. Check them out!

We’re looking forward to November and the Evaluation 2015 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to

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