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.
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