Prioritizing Equity, Trust, and Self-Care in Our Local Affiliates: Insights from the LAC Pre-Conference Retreat by Steve Mumford, Casey Filer, and Sheila Rodriguez

Hello, AEA365 community! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. This week is Individuals Week, which means we take a break from our themed weeks and spotlight the Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources and Lessons Learned from any evaluator interested in sharing. Would you like to contribute to future individuals weeks? Email me at with an idea or a draft and we will make it happen.

Hi! We are representing AEA’s Local Affiliate Collaborative (LAC) as active members of our local affiliates, Gulf Coast Evaluation Network (Steve) and Chicagoland Evaluation Association (Casey and Sheila). Before each AEA conference, the LAC organizes a pre-conference retreat where affiliate leaders come together in community. For many, it’s a conference highlight!

We organized this year’s retreat and want to share our experience. It was hosted in the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s headquarters, where we facilitated roundtables asking how affiliates can prioritize three complementary values: equity, trust, and self-care.

Lessons Learned

  • Equity is complex and multi-faceted, but at its core is equal access to institutional supports to achieve fairness in outcomes. Equity demands that historically marginalized voices are centered. Some AEA affiliates might be characterized by relatively small, closed networks, especially on volunteer boards. We need to cultivate more inclusive organizational cultures, champion evaluation as a tool for equity, and forcefully advocate for equitable systems change.

To expand affiliates’ reach, we suggest intentional recruitment and inclusion of “evaluation-adjacent staff” like program managers. Affiliates might also recruit emerging evaluators through university partnerships and facilitate mentoring relationships. Some affiliates have engaged in equity audits and trainings to self-assess and start working towards deeper cultural transformation.

  • Trust is belief in someone’s reliability, truth, ability, or strength. Our exploration focused on trust amongst leadership and earning the trust of members. Affiliates benefit from shared cultural norms that trust everyone will do a good job and get work done, creating space in meetings for everyone’s ideas and healthy conflict, and ensuring we have realistic expectations of each other.

To earn the trust of members, affiliate leaders emphasized creating and maintaining a platform and events schedule that is organized, consistent, and reliable. We desire a culture of transparency, including sharing our work and mistakes, being clear about what we cannot do, and eliminating elections so anyone who wants to play a role can. We discussed the importance of understanding members’ needs. We also encourage affiliate leaders to offer positionally statements and allow members to question them and follow a process if harm is done.

  • Self-Care is the practice of actively protecting one’s own well-being and happiness. As affiliate leaders, we acknowledge its importance, especially in the pandemic era, but also recognize a need for collective care, which an affiliate might support. We hoped to start to foster collective care by listening to and addressing our members’ self-care needs.

To incorporate both self- and collective care within our affiliates, we proposed providing opportunities to gather professionally, offering a yoga retreat, and sharing resources during monthly meetings. Additionally, we suggest incorporating time for relationship-building at each event and discussing how to redefine self-care to more intentionally support members.

Get Involved

As suggested above, local AEA affiliates are great for connecting with other evaluation enthusiasts and promoting evaluation regionally. Running a volunteer-driven affiliate takes a lot of work, especially if we are to operationalize aspirational values, but the LAC has supported us in this journey. Through monthly virtual meetings and conference programming, the LAC creates space for affiliate leaders to share and learn about our approaches, struggles, and triumphs.

We encourage affiliate leaders to get involved in the LAC if you aren’t, and to consider some of our proposed strategies. Also share what is working (or not working) for you, starting in the comments below! For others, we encourage you to join your local affiliate, because power is in numbers. And for everyone, let’s prioritize equity, trust, and self-care.

Special thanks to LAC co-facilitator Aisha Rios for her help with planning the pre-conference retreat and reviewing this post!

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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.