Promoting Equity Through Participatory Evaluation Approaches Week: Promoting Equity Through Evaluation Capacity Building by Cindy Crusto

Hi, I’m Cindy Crusto, Professor, Yale School of Medicine and a faculty at YaleEVAL, an evaluation group at The Consultation Center at Yale, where I am Director, Program Evaluation and Child Trauma Research. I am pleased to contribute to our team’s week-long series on how participatory evaluation approaches can be used to promote equity. Today, I share tips for promoting equity through evaluation capacity building.

One way to achieve fair and just opportunities for all people to participate and thrive in society is to enhance the effectiveness of non-profit and governmental organizations that work with or on behalf of vulnerable or socially marginalized populations. These organizations engage in the important work of mitigating historic disadvantage and addressing inequalities built into the fabric of U.S. systems and institutions. If we can help these organizations do what they set out to do better, such as well-developed, evidence-based/evidence-informed, and well-implemented services, the health, well-being, and opportunities of vulnerable populations can be improved. Everyone has a right to high quality services, thus, as evaluators, we seek to ensure that evaluations can enhance access to and effectiveness of publicly-funded services.

Hot Tips for promoting equity through evaluation capacity building:

  1. Take a strengths-based approach: meet organizations where they are. The late professional tennis player, Arthur Ashe, once said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” It is sometimes helpful to start with small pilot projects and then move to other programs and departments and to increased rigor in evaluation designs and methods.
  • Where possible, offer low-cost (or better yet, free) capacity-building services. Many nonprofits serving racial and ethnic minority populations, for instance, are subject to the same systemic biases as the populations they serve, resulting in inequities in funding, opportunities, and resources for capacity building. Consider developing partnerships with grantmaking entities (foundations, government) to support evaluation-capacity building efforts.
  • Attend to culture and context. Ensure that your work is culturally-situated. Evaluations that take culture and context into account are more responsive to diverse stakeholders and yield more valid and useful results.
  • Ensure participant ownership. Work to ensure that stakeholders are in the driver’s seat. As evaluators, we are there to support capacity building by enhancing a stakeholder’s skills and confidence. Everyone has the capacity to make valuable contributions to an evaluation process.

Rad Resource

These resources can develop evaluations and evaluation processes that contribute to equity:


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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