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¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week: Lessons on Social Justice in Evaluation by Libby Smith

Hello! My name is Libby Smith, I work at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where I am fortunate enough to work in evaluation in multiple capacities. Today I’d like to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned from being a member of ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! First, Nicole Robinson and the rest of the executive board are tireless promoters of our mission both in and outside of our state. They have truly taught me the value of building connections across long distances and being part of a network that shares a common goal. Second, I have learned that infusing social justice into my work is not optional or occasional.

Lessons Learned:

From participating in webinars on using racial equity in evaluation to participating in last spring’s Social Justice and Evaluation Conference, the professional development I have received as a member has been consistent, effective, and incredibly valuable to my growth as an evaluator. I was honored to be asked to present an Eval 101 session at the spring conference, but the lessons learned through listening to the people who attended my session were incredibly valuable.  The organization’s commitment to promoting social justice within evaluation sets it apart from the other groups that I belong to.

My connection to ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! led to the most professionally satisfying work of my career. In 2015, I began collaborating with the Annie E. Casey Foundation as they established the Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) program, an effort to increase the number of underrepresented evaluators of color, a mission directly aligned with our goals. Through our Graduate Certificate in Evaluation Studies, we provide evaluation training to the early-career scholars in the LEEAD program. I am so proud of the work that we are doing, knowing that we are exponentially expanding our ability to bring change to the field of evaluation and to the communities we work in as evaluators.

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.

4 thoughts on “¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week: Lessons on Social Justice in Evaluation by Libby Smith”

  1. Respected Libby Smith,

    Thank you for your enlightening article pertaining to Lessons on Social Justice in Evaluation. It has been a long time since I’ve felt the need to address the concern to not overlook the opinions of those who are different from us. A biased evaluation does not depict an accurate reflection of a situation. We must be open to different methods of evaluation and determine different ways of assessing and obtaining essential feedback. One must be culturally sensitive and aware of what individuals regard in high esteem.

    Although we come from different walks of life, we must celebrate and learn from the diversity in our faiths, ethnicities, cultures, values, ethics, and morals, when we evaluate a person, a program or an agency, it is important that we discuss and express the values of each and every person or the mandate of a program. Establishing social justice is not easy, yet as educators we must strive to be reflective and responsible professionals in our dealings with others.

    When performing evaluations, we need to ensure that biases and prejudices are eradicated to fully understand and improve a program situation. We must delve deeper and be part of the solution in establishing social justice. We must hold ourselves to account and remember to be mindful as we strive to provide a good example and encourage others to contribute towards a more fair and just society.

    Our goal as educators is to be inclusive and welcome different perspectives on a given situation. As a teacher, I try to assess students in different ways and be fair in my methods of evaluation. Every individual has his or her strengths and weaknesses. Although we each have our own preferences, must be mindful and reach out to those who feel alone, overwhelmed, or who just need some encouragement.

    I am so happy to hear about the LEEAD program (Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity), whose mission is to increase the number of underrepresented evaluators of color, and this mission is part and parcel of what Education stands for and how it showcases diversity and respect for all people who wish to adopt a positive attitude and work ethic, while encouraging all people with different perspectives based on their experiences as professionals who strive to make the world a better place.

    Tolerance is paramount to establishing a just society. Co-existence is not the same thing as tolerance. One needs to be open-minded, flexible, able to listen and work on establishing good understanding and developing good character as a role model to other students. Sometimes owning up to mistakes can help students learn how to admit or correct oneself and learn to accommodate students who need assistance in any way.

    Thank you for sharing such a commendable article. The information you have presented was an excellent reminder for me to uphold my duty and establish social justice in my class, so that my students can spread the word to others and be caring mindful citizens.

    Best regards,

    Sheeba Shukoor

    1. Hello Sheeba –

      I am grateful for your comments and that my writing elicited your thoughtful reflection on your own work. Thank you for being a part of this conversation and for moving us forward in the mission for social justice!


  2. Hello Mrs Smith,

    I really enjoyed reading your posting on the AEA365 website title “Milwaukee Evaluation! Week:Lessons on Social Justice in Evaluation”. Building relationships is such an important part of networking in a global community. We have so much to learn from one another and establishing a strong community of learners is a key component of most workplace environments. I really connected with your message about making social justice an integral part of your work. Social justice should not be an aside that we consider when tragedy is evident in the media, but an important aspect of our everyday lives. Promoting the importance of social justice within the domain of evaluation is a key feature of establishing ethical treatment for everyone. Your thoughtful post has encouraged me to deepen my knowledge of the Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity program since I am passionate about promoting equity in evaluation. I wish you all the best as you continue to expand your professional knowledge of evaluation. Thank you for the great post!

    Kind Regards,


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