Oregon Evaluators Week: Sustaining a CREE Independent Evaluation Practice using Near-Peer Mentoring by Karyl Askew

Karyl Askew, here. I am an Oregon-based independent program evaluation consultant specializing in culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE).

Independent evaluation consultants often experience social isolation, which can be more pronounced as an evaluator of color doing equity work. However, while I operate a sole proprietor consulting business, I rarely work alone.

Near-peer mentoring has been a sustaining practice for my professional growth and as I conduct culturally responsive and equitable evaluations. I practice near-peer mentoring as regular, intentional (but not necessarily formal), multidirectional, mutually beneficial exchanges among a community of practitioners, who are at various phases and stages in personal and professional journeys. It is one way I, and we, ground and lean into AEA’s Guiding Principles and Competencies centered on deepening a reflective practice, staying current, and building connections. 

By far, the most impactful source of near-peer mentoring has been bi-weekly CREE chats that I participate in with two colleagues, Monifa Beverly and Kimberly Harris. We are three Black cisgender female evaluation consultants who use CREE chats to enrich our practice of culturally responsive equitable evaluation. We have sustained this practice for over a year, across time zones. It is two hours I safeguard and look forward to every month.  Each meeting we reflect on a rad resource (like the one below) and consider how to apply it to our professional and personal endeavors.

Rad Resource: Check out this visually adapted version of the international association for public participation’s (iap2) Spectrum of Public Participation. The Spectrum helps project stakeholders and evaluators cultivate trust by clarifying expectations for participation and impact on decisions. Our team reflected on the degree of stakeholder responsiveness at each level and the ways that trust might be breached, mostly likely with community stakeholders. Community stakeholders may feel betrayed by a process that only leaves opportunities to be “informed” and “consulted” when their expectation is for “collaboration” and “empowerment.” Ultimately, CREE pushes us to increase project stakeholder’s impact on the decision-making process. (Thanks for elevating this resource, Dr. Symonette!)

Get Involved: Shout out to local AEA-affiliates! AEA-affiliates have been an important source of near-peer mentoring and professional development for me. I maintain memberships in OPEN and RTP Evaluators. I am also on the Atlanta-area Evaluation Association’s listserv and enjoy their Journal Club.

Hot Tip: Arts appreciation deepens CREE practice. Many artists and art studios have innovated to share their arts-towards-equity work online. Find ways to support their efforts, while nourishing your CREE journey. Check out online works from The Vanport Mosaic’s 2020 Virtual Festival. Vanport Mosaic, a memory-activism platform, that has nourished me personally and professionally this year. (Thanks to Nelda Reyes, Chris Cartwright, and Paula Manley for introducing me to the rich multicultural Portland-area art scene and for the work that they do to support of these cultural artists/educators/activists.)

This week, AEA365 is featuring posts from evaluators in Oregon. Since Evaluation 2020 was moved from Portland, OR to online, a generous group of Oregon evaluators got together to offer content on a variety of topics relevant to evaluators. 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.

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