Promoting Equity Through Participatory Evaluation Approaches Week: Promoting Equity for Underserved Populations by Amy Griffin

I’m Amy Griffin, Director of Health Evaluation Initiatives at The Consultation Center at Yale and a member of YaleEVAL. Recently I had the privilege to work with a state agency and a statewide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) coalition to develop a statewide LGBTQ needs assessment.

Below are some Hot Tips to promote equity when developing a needs assessment with underserved populations.

Do your homework.

  • Reach out to other states/entities to learn about their experiences conducting similar needs assessments. These experiences and lessons learned can save you valuable time and provide diverse perspectives to shape your work.
  • Connect with other AEA evaluators through a Topical Interest Group (TIG).  We reached out to the Needs Assessment TIG and the LGBT Issues TIG for advice about implementing our Needs Assessment during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
  • Invest in ally training to enhance your understanding about the history and experiences of the community with which you are partnering and to self-assess your own privilege and positioning (AEA Equity Principle E5). Our evaluation team took ally training sponsored by the Safe Zone Project.
  • Consider holding individual conversations with coalition members to learn about their past experiences, expectations, and potential concerns related to the needs assessment.

Create safe spaces to foster authentic communication.

  • Normalize group processes. One of my favorite resources is Sam Kaner’s Diamond Model of Participation in which he discusses the “Groan Zone.” This model describes the common process of moving from convergent to divergent perspectives before arriving at a solution. Recognizing that this is an inevitable process in group decision making and discussing it with your community partners in advance can assist with relationship building and establishing healthy group norms.
  • Engage in active listening. Pay attention to the language that community partners use to describe their experiences and the goals for the needs assessment and adopt those terms when possible in your conversations, data collection tools, presentations, and reports.
  • Be open to learning. As evaluators, we are often referred to as the ‘experts.’ While we do bring critical tools and frameworks to move the work forward, our community partners have invaluable lived experience and expertise that shape all aspects of our work. 
  • Be transparent about your role and the limitations of the needs assessment from the beginning. This will ensure that your assessment provides information about the most critical aspects of a given issue. It also keeps the end in mind and helps to manage expectations and build trust.  

Rad Resources. Here are some great resources to facilitating more equitable community conversations:


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@eval.org . 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.

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