Promoting Equity Through Participatory Evaluation Approaches Week: Making Evaluation Challenges Explicit to Promote Equity by Michael Awad and Derrick Gordon

Hello. We are Michael Awad, Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale School of Medicine and YaleEVAL Consultant; and Derrick Gordon, Associate Professor, Yale School of Medicine and Director, Research, Policy, and Program on Male Development at The Consultation Center at Yale and YaleEVAL faculty. As evaluators from underrepresented groups, we know first-hand about the unique challenges of working to promote equity and how these challenges can undermine our use of participatory evaluation approaches. It is important to note, however, that these challenges are shared; by the evaluator and by program partners and participants.

  • For the evaluator one challenge is being regarded as an outsider by the program or group being evaluated or to be cast as an interloper, or worse, a traitor to the community that we may look like.
  • For program partners, such as program leadership and staff, a challenge is that the evaluation process may prompt disclosures that might put our program or job at risk.
  • For program participants, such as young people enrolled in the services offered or parents of the young people served, a challenge might be their concerns about being seen as flawed, having a pathology, or problems.
  • For community partners, a key challenge is exposing community vulnerabilities that may lead to an inaccurate portrayal of our community or one that does not put it in the best light. Community partners are also usually unpaid, and inequality that also implicitly devalues participation.

Most of these challenges are well known to evaluators, but they also illustrate how participatory approaches offer opportunities for promoting equity. One way to do so is to make these challenges explicit among all parties so that the burden of the evaluation is shared. Sharing challenges also prioritizes real participation among evaluation stakeholders, and thus, equity.

When evaluation stakeholders make explicit their unique evaluation challenges they are likely to reveal hidden biases. Although acknowledging our biases may be difficult, doing so can bridge the divide among evaluators, program partners, and program participants to build authentic collaboration. Reflective practice can be a useful tool for interrogating our own biases, uncovering blind spots, and fostering honest dialogue about differing perspectives and experiences.  

Lessons Learned: Making evaluation challenges explicit among all evaluation parties is essential to turning evaluation challenges into opportunities for authentic collaboration and equity.

Rad Resource: Engage in reflective practice to get a ‘pulse check’ with evaluation partners and participants to develop a shared perspective on the work.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Promoting Equity Through Participatory Evaluation Approaches Week. 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.

1 thought on “Promoting Equity Through Participatory Evaluation Approaches Week: Making Evaluation Challenges Explicit to Promote Equity by Michael Awad and Derrick Gordon”

  1. Mallory Robinson

    This was a very interesting read. I have often thought that our evaluation methods contribute to inequity in terms of the outdated tools we use and exclusion of community stakeholders–or just outright collecting data without any permission or some sort of debriefing. So I am glad to see the perspectives of two evaluators in this work who shine a light on different community perspectives.

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