LGBT TIG Week: Becoming a Better Evaluator for LGBTQ+ Stakeholders: It’s On Us! By Morgan Wright and John LaVelle

Hello, our names are Morgan Wright (he/him/his) and John LaVelle (he/him/his), members of the Evaluation Studies community at the University of Minnesota, and working on a project to critically analyze and make recommendations about how to integrate LGBTQ+ topics and principles into evaluator education programs.  Our premise is: evaluators often do their work from a place of privilege and not always as members of the communities that programs are designed to serve.    

As such, it is the responsibility of evaluators who are “outsiders” to educate themselves about the communities they serve, and possible modalities include formal education programs, professional development workshops, and the like. 

We hope these tips, tricks, and resources can be integrated into evaluator education experiences and contribute to conversations about how to do evaluations with communities rather than to them. 

Hot Tip: Regularly check (and double-check) your assumptions and pronouns.
Historically, many members of LGBTQ+ communities have been called inappropriate and hurtful terms.  One thing evaluators can do is use the group’s preferred descriptors and a person’s preferred pronouns (click here for more information), and normalize it as part of contemporary evaluation practice.  For example, we ask program participants and stakeholders what they would like to be called, explaining that we have no wish to accidentally perpetuate cisnormative or microaggressive behaviors.   While it is not the burden of the LGBTQ+ community to educate evaluators, stripping away your own assumptions through reflective practice is crucial to avoid causing harm to the LGBTQ+ stakeholders engaged in evaluative practice.

Hot Tip: Positionality and intersectionality are critical for working with LGBTQ+ communities.
The LGBTQ+ community is extremely diverse with many different cultures, beliefs, traditions, and history, as well as combinations based on individual and group identities and relationships to power. Understanding the many different identities within and between LGBTQ+ stakeholders is crucial towards effective evaluation because the quality of the evaluation data is dependent on building trust and rapport with stakeholders. For example, LGBTQ+ communities are, by definition, sexual and gender minorities, but racism and other prejudices exist within LGBTQ+ communities, leading to disparities among members of the LGBTQ+ community such as differing prevalence of certain disease diagnosis across different ethnicities for trans people,  access to healthcare for Gay and Bisexual men of color in New York City, and other health outcomes such as national rates of new HIV diagnosis.  We recommend the Basic Rights Education Fund’s Standing Together: Coming out for Racial Justice workbook, specifically the section titled “Ally 101” as a resource for learning about racism in LGBTQ+ communities and to help evaluators understand their own positionality and intersectionality. 

Rad Resource: The LGBTQ-TA Center is a valuable resource offering much technical assistance and training to stakeholders working with LGBTQ+ communities.  In particular, the LGBTQ Population Evaluation Guidelines contain multiple resources for evaluators to learn about culturally appropriate methods to work with while engaging with LGBTQ stakeholders. The report details specific considerations, such as the importance of confidentiality in data collection methods evaluators must incorporate into their practice in order to evaluate with LGBTQ communities and reduce potential harm to stakeholders.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating LGBT TIG Week with our colleagues in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our LGBT 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.

5 thoughts on “LGBT TIG Week: Becoming a Better Evaluator for LGBTQ+ Stakeholders: It’s On Us! By Morgan Wright and John LaVelle”

  1. Hello Morgan and John,

    My name is Menina (she/her) and I am very pleased to stumble upon your post. I write this response in the position of a cisgender white woman who identifies as lesbian. Two years ago I would not have been confident enough to publically identify myself but here we are. Due to the work of many, I am able to stand where I am today and be confident about my identity. I am currently taking a course on evaluation and as a student who is new to this, I am very happy that there is work being done in order to educate evaluators in becoming better evaluators for LGBTQ+ Stakeholders. In today’s current climate it is extremely important for us to recognize our privilege, yet seems to be a concept that is easily forgotten. When you speak about evaluators and how often they “do their work form a place a privilege and not always members of the communities that programs are designed to serve” it makes me recognize the work that still needs to be done by many. That in order to truly be able to evaluate and strip away bias, evaluators must educate themselves on the communities they are working with. As a teacher and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community I know how true it is when you say that “it is not the burden of the LGBTQ+ community to educate evaluators” and how important it is to strip “away your own assumptions through reflective practice”. It is indeed crucial for evaluators to do this as to not cause harm to the LGBTQ+ stakeholders. I appreciate the resources embedded in your article and again thank you for explaining how evaluators can work towards becoming a better evaluator for the LGBTQ+ stakeholders.

  2. Hi Morgan and John,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and found it incredibly relevant and informative. I agree that a huge issue within evaluation is the lack of privilege recognition and a lack of recognition of multiple minority groups work in general. “Evaluators often do their work from a place of privilege and not always as members of the communities that programs are designed to serve.” is such a powerful statement and an incredibly accurate one.
    That being said, while many are finally becoming aware of these issues, it is not in fact the LGBTQ+ ‘s responsibility to educate those who find themselves. Regardless, you offer some great tips and tricks to help out those who are just beginning their journey to do “evaluation with communities rather than to them”. Performing evaluations within the input of a community is such a valuable part of evaluations, as I feel as though this places a sense of ownership and responsibility on the community to become truly invested in areas of improvement and growth. It also allows communities to rejoice together in triumphs and victories.

    Furthermore, checking assumptions is an important rule in general for all conducting evaluations, but it is especially crucial for those evaluating groups within the LGBTQ+ community who has faced more than enough harm over the years. As a teacher, I have taught quite a few students who have questioned their sexuality and gender during their time in my class. They have changed their personal pronouns, name(s) and clothing styles. I recognize that it is my job as their teacher to be a source of guidance and acceptance, while also setting a precedent for how LGBTQ+ students will be treated in my classroom. Students look to their teachers as role models and so we hold so much power in these formative years! I often have open and honest conversations with my students about the importance of continuously learning (ex. no longer using the term “preferred pronouns”) and recognizing the various privileges in our lives.

    Thank you for the reminder about the importance of intersectionality within the evaluation community! This is especially relevant considering the spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement these past few months. It is of the utmost importance to have a group see themselves represented by those evaluating them to ensure fairness and understanding. Bias and prejudice can easily become part of an evaluation, skewing results, when a diverse of LGBTQ+ peoples are being evaluated by a heterosexual, all white pannel, who have never realized the privilege they benefit from daily.
    Finally, the LGBTQ TA center is such a great resource for the LGBTQ+ community and I look forward to doing more research into the work they do.

    All the best, Olivia

  3. Amanda (she/her/hers) Sutter

    Thanks for these resources. I teach in schools of social work where pronoun use has been especially encouraged. As this conversation has evolved, I learned recently something that makes total sense– we should ask what folks’ pronouns are, not what their “preferred” pronouns are. It’s a subtle but significant difference as it implies choice to use “preferred.” As we’ve moved away from heteronormative assumptions in regards to sexuality, I think it’s imperative we take this next step in regards to gendering as well.

  4. Hello Morgan and John my name is Tracy (she/her) and I am a student new to the study of evaluation. I appreciate your comment, “evaluators often do their work from a place of privilege and not always as members of the communities that programs are designed to serve.” This is something that I have been thinking about as I have been learning and working through my current course on program evaluation. I realize that while some of us have faced discrimination due to sex, gender, poverty, or race, most of us that are in a position to evaluate a program have been to university and that, by definition, means that we may view the world through a lens of privilege.
    I like how you stated that it is “the responsibility of evaluators who are “outsiders” to educate themselves about the communities they serve.” As the purpose of most social programs is to improve the quality of life, or solve a problem, for a vulnerable population, it is extremely important that those in charge of the program are educated about the community they intend to serve. Without understanding the community and its needs it would be impossible to comprehend what the scope of the program should be and if assumptions are made about the needs of the community it could lead to errors, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings.
    Utility standards are in place to ensure that program evaluations are actually useful to all stakeholders. Propriety standards are in place to define and support the evaluation process to be just, right, legal, proper, and fair with care and concern for all stakeholders. All participants should be treated in a dignified and respectful manner. With these standards in mind you can see why it is so important to learn about the communities that you work with. Thank you for sharing your hot tip and rad resources.
    Tracy

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