¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week: Hot Tips for Black Women by Black Women with Monique Liston

Hi! My name is Monique Liston, Chief Strategic Officer at Ubuntu Research and Evaluation. I am a race liberation strategist and evaluator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

As 2016 came to a close, I found myself at a professional crossroads, nearing the end of writing my dissertation and reevaluating my work prospects. I reached out to several friends and colleagues who have always held my professional identity in high regard to contemplate my next moves. Many people offered ideas of positions within institutions such as universities, foundations, or nonprofits that would be opening soon or could possibly be created to nurture my skill set.

However, the timing for these opportunities did not coincide with my needs. I took a leap of faith and decided to build my own consulting firm. I decided that I wanted to build a space for research and evaluation that celebrated Black Women as having unique professional skillsets, being knowledge creators celebrating what Patricia Hill Collins termed “Afrocentric Feminist Epistemology”, and deserving to be compensated fully for what they bring to the table. Here are three hot tips for supporting a space for Black women to direct and design evaluation.

Hot Tips:

  • Meditate on Dr. Vincent J. Harding’s The Vocation of the Black Scholar. There are many Black women who have written about the unique contributions that Black scholars provide to scholastic endeavors. However, Harding’s article very clears out the tensions that reside between Black liberation ideologies and the work of scholars in the academy. As evaluators, we have a responsibility to consider how we can uplift beloved community through our evaluation practice.
  • Embed written reflection during every formal opportunity.We know that Black women’s voices are often marginalized in professional spaces. Joan Morgan explains one of the reasons this happens, particularly around practitioners is because of the “superwoman complex”. Black women, being too busy doing, and not spending enough time processing their work through written reflection. To combat that, all of us at Ubuntu are responsible for writing monthly for our blog.
  • Build intentional spaces for decompression.Last, but of course, not least, we spend considerable time in our meeting spaces for decompression. We do verbal, written, and artistic check-ins to support one another. We allow others to witness our intentionality around decompressing white supremacist thinking, microaggressions, and misogynoir. We develop a short decompression guide — for laughs — but it holds significant truths to the way we work at Ubuntu!

A year later, I am reflecting on what this organization – Ubuntu Research and Evaluation – has become. We are freedom fighters for hire. We use frameworks of Building Beloved Community and Black Liberation to define our work. We are serving as an intellectual vanguard for evaluating programs and projects that aim to improve the outcomes of Black children and families.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week with our colleagues in the Wisconsin statewide AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! 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.

8 thoughts on “¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week: Hot Tips for Black Women by Black Women with Monique Liston”

  1. There’s a growing group of us who are unashamed of using our training, talents, life experiences, and perspectives to advance the quest toward racial and economic justice–liberatory praxis as the journey and destination. We are unwilling to be dismissed, discredited, chastised, and cast aside as “biased” (as if those not bothered with/ engaged in these struggles are free of biases).

    In solidarity,

    1. vidhya,

      Yes!!!!!! You are absolutely right. It’s great to hear these truths from you. And we’ve got to support each other.

      If there’s a way that we can connect with you and the work that you’re doing, please let us know! Our info, mission, and more can be found on our website: http://www.ubunturesearch.com. If you would like to connect via email or linkedin our contact information is available on there as well.

      -The Ubuntu Team

  2. Nice tips. My brother just left the Boys and Girls club at Milwaukee. He could have used an evaluator like yourself. It always good know other sisters in the business. Look me up if you are ever in Houston, TX.

    1. Alicia,

      It is great to know other sisters in the business. If there’s a way that we can connect and grow together- let us know! We are all for it.

      Our information, mission, and more can be found on our website: http://www.ubunturesearch.com. We encourage you to check it out! If you would like to connect via email or linkedin our contact information is available on there as well.

      -The Ubuntu Team

  3. Hi Monique,

    I am a black Canadian of Jamaican descent. I was really moved by your article and by your company’s mission. I am learning about evaluation at Queen’s University and one of the authors Weiss, in “Have we learned anything new about the use of evaluation?” advocated that as evaluators we must move towards greater social justice. We must use evaluation as a way to empower marginalized groups by including them in the evaluative process. From what I understand Ubuntu is a space for the black collective (thoughts, works, efforts of professional black persons). As a fellow ‘dope black woman,’ I think UBUNTU Research and Evaluation is a breath of fresh air. A lot of the programs that target marginalized groups continue with little to know improvement because evaluations are seen as routine versus prescriptive. Anyway, I wanted to leave my props.

    Melicia Hewitt

    1. Peace Melicia!

      Thanks so much for your comment! Love to hear from other DOPE BLACK WOMEN doing amazing things in the field. You are so right — evaluation can be liberatory WHILE providing invaluable information about moving forward. If only the whole world understood that! Sending love and light your way.

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