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.