MSI Fellowship Week: Cirecie West-Olatunji and Chandra Story On Intellectual Colonization and Exporting Pejorative Attitudes in Program Evaluation: 3 Hot Tips

We are both AEA Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Fellows this year with specialization in two related disciplines. The first author, Cirecie West-Olatunji is a counselor educator at Xavier University of Louisiana and Chandra Story is a faculty member in Health Education and Promotion/Pubic Health at Oklahoma State University. As we conclude our year long fellowship with AEA, we have gravitated to discussions on culturally responsive program evaluation. Most salient in our discussions have been topics focusing on the role of the evaluator in minimizing hegemony in evaluation design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation.

For the past several decades scholars have advanced knowledge about the hidden values implicit in program evaluation design and interpretation. In a 2014 report, the Centers for Disease Control stated that cultural values can influence community members’ theory of change processes (i.e., their perceptions and associated behaviors related to the issues of concern). Such cultural myopia can also influence policymakers’ decisions affecting the community and delivery of services by practitioners. Thus, culturally skewed perspectives can have long-lasting effects on marginalized individuals, families, and communities. In considering ways to increase self-awareness of intellectual colonization and bias among evaluators, we have devised a list of three hot tips that can be used by practicing evaluators that can move us from cultural destructiveness to cultural proficiency on the cultural competence continuum.

Hot Tips:

#1: Increase Self-awareness

Start with a self-inventory in which you reflect on your own values that serve to guide your evaluation practices. Also, consider how these values may be in conflict with the community you are evaluating as well as how your beliefs may reflect inconsistencies or myths about the community stakeholders. Self-awareness also includes an awareness of relative privilege.

#2: Increase Community Knowledge

After reflecting on how your values are embedded in your evaluation practices, take the time to learn more about the history, strengths, and worldviews of the community with whom you are developing the evaluation plan (The Colorado Trust,  2007). Read archival information or engage in meaningful dialogue with community representatives. In addition, it may be helpful to access a cultural broker– one who can mediate between cultures.

#3: Increase Culturally Responsive Evaluation Skills

Actively enhance your culturally responsive evaluation competence by participating in professional development trainings (online webinars or local/national conference presentations). Additionally, read journal articles, books, and digital resources available on the web.

As a guiding principle, it is important that we demonstrate cultural sensitivity in which empathy, trust, and respect are highlighted in our actions. Only then can we increase our credibility in seeking truths about program effectiveness in diverse settings.

The American Evaluation Association is AEA Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Fellowship Experience week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s MSI Fellows. For more information on the MSI fellowship, see this webpage: 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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