LAWG Week: Mariana Enríquez on Reaching Minority Communities

Hello, my name is Mariana Enríquez and I am a Program Evaluation Consultant based in Denver, Colorado. My work focuses on the evaluation of education and public health programs across Colorado.

Immigration has been in recent news because of the large number of unaccompanied children arriving in the country from Central America. Colorado, and especially the Denver Metropolitan Area, is home to a large number of immigrants from all corners of the world; many are refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In fact, close to 10% of Colorado residents were born in countries other than the USA (source).

Although more than one-third of immigrants in Colorado are naturalized U.S. citizens (source), many maintain their own language and culture. For example, almost 17% of the Colorado population speaks a language other than English at home, and Denver Public School students collectively speak more than 120 languages. This diversity makes evaluation work very challenging when crossing languages and cultures trying to reach these communities. As AEA’s Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation indicates, “The diversity of cultures within the United States guarantees that virtually all evaluators will work outside familiar cultural contexts at some time in their careers.” Additionally, “Cultural competence is fluid. An evaluator who is well prepared to work with a particular community is not necessarily competent in another.”

Hot Tips:

  • Learn as much as possible about participants’ cultural identity and background.
  • Use cultural brokers, cultural translators, bridge builders, interpreters to access and get to know your participants.
  • Do not assume that same language makes same worldviews. Language could be a barrier, but it is not “the only” barrier.
  • Adapt to the participants’ needs, do not expect them to adapt to yours.
  • Ensure that participants’ intentions are understood and their voices are heard.
  • Use advisory committees, involve representation from all stakeholders in all phases of evaluation.

Rad Resources: Things to Do in Denver during Evaluation 2014

  • Get out at sunset and don’t miss Chihuly Nights, illuminated glass sculptures by renowned sculpture artist Dale Chihuly on display at Denver Botanical Gardens.
  • Getting around downtown Denver is easy and FREE. Quickly reach downtown restaurants, museums and shops on the FREE 16th Street Mall Ride. Get around downtown quickly during the rush hours on the FREE Metro Ride on 18th Street.
  • Visit the newly renovated Union Station where you can connect to many metropolitan areas via bus
  • Shop or eat at the historical Larimer Square, five blocks west of the Colorado Convention Center.
  • Head west to Boulder – Rent a car and visit the Celestial Seasonings tea factory and take a hike among the famous Flatirons in beautiful Chautauqua Park.
  • Check the Westword magazine for other ideas and activities.

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2014 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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