I am Ravan Charles, an evaluation newbie from Omaha, Nebraska. I’m writing about how my personal experience at the 2015 Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute (MESI) Spring Training will influence the way I do evaluation for the rest of my life.
I have to admit, I was skeptical when I saw the conference theme – ‘Social Justice Amidst Standards and Accountability: The Challenge for Evaluation’ with an emphasis on cultural competence. It is probably important to note that I am a black woman. I grew up in a world where cultural competence was for white people. Cultural competence meant the white lady facilitating my all-black tween girls’ group was able to code-switch fluently, or my sociology professor making sure to call on me whenever we talked about race in class (every day, it was a long semester). My perception was that cultural competency was something that white people were trained to be good at (by other white people).
When I walked into the conference, I instinctively scanned the room for other black and brown faces. I saw one… two… seven…. I lost count. Of the many trainings, conferences, and college classes that I have attended in my life this was the very first where I felt that there was adequate people-of-color representation. I had never realized how important racial diversity is to me until my need for it was satisfied. Once it was, I was able to notice and more deeply appreciate other types of diversity in the rooms. Furthermore, I was able to become more actively engaged and take ownership of the training.
Lesson Learned: When I was able to see myself across the room, in the lunch line, and even at the podium I no longer felt like a spectator. I realized that being culturally competent is about continuously learning from, sharing, and honoring our differences and using that knowledge to create things together. That is just as valuable to me as anyone else. Seeing myself in the room allowed me to see myself as an evaluator, and as someone who wants to be a good one.
I plan to use this experience inform my future work. For me, being culturally competent will mean that I not only strive to interact effectively with clients, I will also work at ensuring that every individual that participates will be able to see their self in every part of the work. My hope is that if every participant feels well-represented throughout they will feel the same sense of ownership and engagement I felt at MESI.
- Cultural Competence in Evaluation: An Overview by Saumitra SenGupta, Rodney Hopson, Melva Thompson-Robinson
- Humberto Reynoso-Vallejo on Cultural Competence and Cultural Humility in Evaluation
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating MESI Spring Training Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from evaluators who presented at or attended the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute Spring Training. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.