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GEDI Week: Nnenia Campell and Saúl Maldonado on Amplifying Definitions of Diversity in the Discourse and Practice of Culturally Responsive Evaluation, Part 1

Hello and Hola. We’re Nnenia Campbell, research assistant at the Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado Boulder and Saúl Maldonado, research assistant at the ELLISA Project, University of California, Santa Cruz. We are recent graduates of the AEA Graduate Diversity Education Internship (GEDI). One of the GEDI goals is to: “Deepen the evaluation profession’s capacity to work in racially, ethnically and culturally diverse settings.” In this first of a two-part series, we share a few of the lessons we’ve learned that have led to our belief that definitions of diversity require amplification.

Diversity is not just race and ethnicity. Addressing the evaluative needs and interests of programs and organizations requires a consideration of the complex relationship between demographic composition and institutional factors. Program participants and organizations are never homogeneous. For example, factors such as age, gender, sexuality, language, religion, spirituality and national heritage as well as socio-economic and geospatial characteristics are significant traits that also intersect with racial and ethnic factors.

Additionally, it is important for evaluators to consider the relevance of political and/or socio-historical factors that may influence relationships between stakeholders. Paying attention to context offers insights to important underlying dynamics that influence the concerns expressed by key players. As evaluators, it is important to share with our stakeholders, in culturally responsive ways, that race and ethnicity indicators are not the only measures of diversity. Power dynamics, trust, and willingness to cooperate are often influenced by the “backstory,” which we must seek to understand.

Diversity is a worldview. How organizations and individuals understand and value diversity is important. Diversity is often considered in concert with culture and cultural practices. And culture is often described as either “surface” or “deep.” “Surface” cultural practices may include characteristics such as clothing, cuisine and art, while “deep” cultural practices may include behavior and value characteristics such as eye contact, speech patterns, concept of time, and notions of leadership and cooperation. As evaluators, working in culturally diverse settings requires the simultaneous consideration of both individuals’ beliefs and perspectives on “deep” cultural behaviors and values as well as organizations’ stances on diversity.

Communicating the interaction between individuals’ and organizations’ worldview in terms of diversity is a culturally responsive practice that informs why program improvement may or may not be evidenced.

We recommend the following resources as useful to amplifying our definitions of diversity: Faheemah Mustafaa’s post:  Pursuing Racial Equity in Evaluation Practice.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) Program week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s GEDI Program and its interns. For more information on GEDI, see their webpage here: http://www.eval.org/GEDI  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. – See more at: http://aea365.org/blog/#sthash.yAoNXPwW.dpuf

2 thoughts on “GEDI Week: Nnenia Campell and Saúl Maldonado on Amplifying Definitions of Diversity in the Discourse and Practice of Culturally Responsive Evaluation, Part 1”

  1. olivia dicostanzo

    Thank you for that thoughtful read Nnenia and Saúl. I am a graduate student studying program evaluation. I am also a teacher and can directly relate to your article on the need for diversity in the discourse of practice for evaluation. As a teacher I am constantly required have an awareness of the cultural context of my classroom.

    There is a diverse plethora of cultures, and with that comes varying needs based on this cultural responsiveness. I really resonated with the point that you made about how diversity is not just about race and ethnicity. In this day and age, diversity encompasses much more then just background. We are looking at one’s identity based on so many factors. As you mention in the article things like: age, gender, sexuality, religion and spirituality play a huge role in how someone identifies. And with this identity often comes bias and influence. As you mentioned, when looking at evaluation ones “diversity” plays a huge role in their values, bias and opinions. This is relevant for both the evaluator and the stakeholders. It becomes imperative that they work together and find connection in their differences, in order to keep the benefits of the evaluation at the center.

    Diversity as a world view: The points that you made here were very eye opening. As an evaluator, looking at things in an open and diverse cultural lens becomes incredibly important. In the article you discuss that as evaluators we must consider ones “deep” cultural practices in order to improve cultural responsiveness and create a holistic evaluation. Communicating this type of interaction, allows for the validity and accuracy of an evaluation, and allows for all parties to feel properly represented. It is only through creating this type of open evaluation, that program improvement can happen. When all individuals feel represented in a way that shows their whole, true and “deep” cultural identity, an evaluation is acting in a way that is culturally responsive. I appreciate your thoughts and opinions and thoroughly found great meaning in your article.

  2. Pingback: GEDI Week: Nnenia Campell and Saúl Maldonado on Amplifying Definitions of Diversity in the Discourse and Practice of Culturally Responsive Evaluation - Wh?nau Ora

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