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LeKisha M. Harris and Chris St. Vil on the Role of Culturally Competent Evaluators

Hello! We are LeKisha M. Harris and Chris St. Vil, interns in AEA’s Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) program. GEDI interns are graduate students who, through a nine-month internship and participation in various workshops throughout the year, gain hands-on experience in evaluation. LeKisha is a 2nd year Master’s student at the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs. Chris is a 7th year doctoral student at Howard University’s School of Social Work.  For her internship, LeKisha is working at ICF Macro, while Chris is interning at Westat.

As a part of our GEDI experience, we are afforded the opportunity to visit prominent organizations around the country that are performing excellent work in the field of evaluation. On our most recent trip to San Francisco, we visited JBS International and the Alameda Health Department in Oakland, California to speak with experts regarding their take on culturally competent evaluation in their work. JBS specializes in diverse evaluations with migrant groups and the Alameda Health Department does extensive work in the area of health disparities with minority populations in the city of Oakland.  We learned a couple of “hot-tips” that we want to share with AEA graduate students and new evaluators to better understand the role of culturally competent evaluators in the fields of evaluation.

Hot Tip: Culturally responsive evaluation is at the heart of reliability and validity

Cultural responsive evaluation honors the cultural context in which an evaluation takes place. There is no such thing as a culturally-free evaluation (Frierson et al., 2002). Our responsibility as evaluators is to recognize our own personal cultural preferences and to make a conscious effort to restrict any undue influence they might have on our work. Neglecting to do so puts the reliability and validity of our evaluation results at risk if those results end up reflecting our own culture and response to others’ experiences, rather than accurately capturing the experiences of the target population.

Hot Tip: Step outside of yourself

Cultural values are integral to the cultural dimensions of program design (SenGupta et al., 2004). Moreover, no group or target population is monolithic; while being a member of, or associated with, a particular group may be helpful, it does not make you an expert on their cultural perspectives or collective experiences. So try to step outside of yourself and attempt to understand issues from the point of view of the populations you are working with when designing your evaluation approach.

Frierson, H. T., Hood, S., & Hughes, G.B. (2002).  Strategies that address culturally responsive evaluation:  A guide to conducting culturally responsive evaluations.

SenGupta, S., Hopson, R., & Thompson-Robinson, M. (2004).  Cultural competence in evaluation:  An overview.  New Directions for Evaluation, 102, 5-19.

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. This is a short monthly series highlighting contributions from AEA’s Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) Program and its interns. You can learn more about the GEDI program by visiting its webpage. 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.

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