MIE & La RED TIGs Week: Community Engagement in Evaluation by Grisel Robles-Schrader

Hi I’m Grisel (pronounced Gruh-cell) Robles-Schrader, Director of Evaluation, Stakeholder-Academic Resource Panels (ShARPs), and Director of the Applied Practice Experience at Northwestern University. I am also co-chair of the Latinx Responsive Evaluation Discourse (La RED) TIG.

Community engagement evaluation creates “processes for many people in a community to bring their experience, knowledge and dreams to shape the evaluation and, thus, the outcomes of the work” (Building the Field of Community Engagement and Babler, 2015). 

Engagement strategies can be utilized to bring together community stakeholders and evaluators to develop, implement, analyze, and disseminate evaluation activities. It’s important to recognize, however, that engagement activities fall along a continuum. In the diagram below, strategies that are much more meaningful and mutually beneficial are those along the right-hand side where shared leadership, decision-making, involvement are applied, fostering trust and communication (CDC, 2011).

Inform, Consult, Involve, Collaborate, Empower diagram

Outreach, Consult, Involve, Collaborate, Shared Leadership table

Community stakeholder engagement helps evaluators:

    • Develop approaches and data collection tools that go beyond “one-size fits all”
    • Minimize and/or avoid pitfalls
    • Promote buy-in which can support achieving evaluation goals
    • Build stakeholder and evaluator capacity – so that we all walk away having learned something new

Tensions arise when community stakeholder perspectives are not taken into account. As an example, when working with Hispanic/Latin@/Latinx communities tensions arise when:


  • When we assume all Latinx people have the same lived experience.
  •  When we assume all Latinx people speak Spanish.
  •  When we assume all languages (such as Spanish) use the same dialects. Depending on the context, the same word can mean very different things.
  •  When we don’t take into account the context we are working within.

These same issues arise when we assume shared experiences or perspectives based on other characteristics such as age, gender identity, access, religion, community by geography, and so on.

Community engagement strategies can produce evaluation efforts that are more relevant to diverse community stakeholders, evaluators and funders. Recommendations are more likely to be adopted by these groups, when sufficient time and effort has been dedicated to nurturing an engaged approach.

Rad Resources:

Wondering how to get started or just looking for new ideas? Check out these resources for more information and tools on how concrete ways to engage diverse community stakeholders.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Multiethnic Issues in Evaluation (MIE) and Latina/o Responsive Evaluation Discourse (La RED) TIGs Week with our colleagues in both the MIE and La RED Topical Interest Groups. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from MIE or  La RED 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.

3 thoughts on “MIE & La RED TIGs Week: Community Engagement in Evaluation by Grisel Robles-Schrader”

  1. Susan Ghanbarpour

    Great post, Grisel! Here are some links to our work that was mentioned, Applying a Language Justice Approach to Evaluation by Noguez Mercado, A.P., Ghanbarpour, S., and Palotai, A. We developed these resources for our workshop at the 2018 AEA conference:

    Presentation slides: http://comm.eval.org/HigherLogic/System/DownloadDocumentFile.ashx?DocumentFileKey=716385cd-c94f-f7c8-1003-8cb7532ca631&forceDialog=0

    Workbook: https://comm.eval.org/HigherLogic/System/DownloadDocumentFile.ashx?DocumentFileKey=3fe02bc6-ef8e-d224-2b3a-114cae81917e&forceDialog=0

  2. Hi Grisel,

    I am currently working on designing a program evaluation for a transportation program. The program requires drivers to go through an intensive training to acquire their commercial driver licence. I know your post is dedicated to a community, but while reading your post I kept thinking on the organization that offers the transportation program is a “mini-community”; staff members bring their experience and apply their knowledge in the best interest of the program.
    I’m developing a Program Evaluation Design to assist in the development of this mini-community and program. While planning the program evaluation design, I kept thinking on how to get stakeholders to buy-in into the evaluation process and the findings. I arrived to the conclusion that if I introduce a collaborative/participatory approach, this will assist in having stakeholders buy-in to the process and findings of evaluation and enhance its use. After reading your blog, all that came to mind, was yes! That’s it! This is good stuff! I was able to relate to your analysis which re-enforced my exploration. I appreciated your graph and table, the visual component definitely made an impact.

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Hello Grisel,
    Thank you for your advice and rad resources around community engagement for evaluation. I really appreciate the continuum of engagement and can pinpoint where my organization is in that continuum along with where we might want to go.
    I work as a teacher in a district with high Aboriginal enrollment and for a while there was outreach in the form of surveys that rarely got filled out. When there was consultation it was revealed that surveys are not the culturally appropriate way to get feedback, and instead the district should hold a gathering, where the information and ideas could be shared in an open forum. Since then that has become a yearly tradition to hold gatherings. There have been moves towards collaboration with our elders and them coming into our schools to share knowledge and tell their stories, and I’m not sure if we will get to Shared Leadership given big decisions get made at the board office by elected trustees, but there has been hard work to get to the point where we are now.
    Thank you for providing information and knowledge around engaging the larger community towards trusting partnerships that we need in education. We are all invested in the next generation and your piece gives us advice towards building a community to support that.
    Thank you,
    Jessica Yee

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