Promoting Equity Through Participatory Evaluation Approaches Week: Promoting Equity through Participatory Evaluation Approaches by Jack Tebes

Hello, I’m Jack Tebes, Professor at the Yale School of Medicine and a faculty at YaleEVAL, an evaluation group of The Consultation Center at Yale, where I am Executive Director. Equity and social justice are central to our mission at the Center, so this week my YaleEVAL colleagues and I are continuing the dialogue on how participatory evaluation approaches can be used to promote equity.

As evaluators, promoting equity is an AEA guiding principle for contributing to the common good toward a just society. Specifically, we must seek to: balance the interests of stakeholders toward the goal of social justice; minimize historic inequities or disadvantage to mitigate power imbalances, bias, and privilege; and share data in such a way that doing so furthers transparency, access, and confidentiality. Recognizing and dismantling racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, classism, and other lived experiences of systemic biases and oppression must be centered in our evaluation thinking and practice if we as a society are to achieve equity. 

To center equity in our work requires that we make a series of inter-connected choices as evaluators, choices that we can frame as questions to ask ourselves. 

  • Do I use reflective practice, the careful consideration of my own observations and experiences, to examine my privilege, biases, and power?
  • If not, how can I learn that skill and use it honestly and without defensiveness? 
  • If I do use reflective practice, do I have the cultural humility to acknowledge that I may not be the right person or the only person to serve as evaluator?
  • Can I step back and use my privilege and power as an evaluator to foster a more equitable and participatory evaluation process that centers underrepresented voices?
  • As a co-evaluator with others, how can I remain committed to a participatory process despite specific deliverables and strict timelines?
  • How do I remain committed to equity and the shared use of data and dissemination of findings once an evaluation ends?

As these questions illustrate, equity in evaluation is not something that is simply addressed in a group training exercise, a reading or handout, or even through individual reflection, as useful as these may be. Equity in evaluation, especially through participatory approaches, needs to be a choice during each step of an evaluation in the context of real-world constraints. It must be centered in what we do as evaluators. By embedding equity into each choice an evaluator makes, it is more likely to be realized, however imperfectly. This week, my YaleEVAL colleagues and I will blog each day about promoting equity through participatory approaches. We hope you join us and we welcome your feedback and ideas.

Lessons learned: Center equity into each choice an evaluator makes.

Rad resource:  Reflective practice is a foundational skill that fosters learning, problem-solving, and growth by identifying implicit assumptions and underlying patterns for ourselves and others. In addition to the above link, check out: Demystifying reflective practice by Smith et al.


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.

2 thoughts on “Promoting Equity Through Participatory Evaluation Approaches Week: Promoting Equity through Participatory Evaluation Approaches by Jack Tebes”

  1. Hi Mr. Tebes,

    Your article on the importance of promoting equity by way of participatory evaluation is such an important and essential component of effective and meaningful evaluation!

    Many times evaluation and evaluative tools are centered around the desired outcomes and yielding specific data to improve a program, in alignment with the vision of program directors, coordinators and stakeholders. Unfortunately, this view of evaluation fails to highlight that promoting equity should be at the root of evaluation. If the goal of evaluation is to collectively (and collaboratively) seek to improve programs, engaging in a participatory form of evaluation should provide the opportunity to actively engage in intentional choices to encourage more equitable processes – from the top right down to the bottom. You’re absolutely on point when you mentioned how we “must seek to: balance the interests of stakeholders toward the goal of social justice; minimize historic inequities…; and share data in such a way that doing so furthers transparency, access and confidentiality”. After reading and reflecting on that driving purpose, evaluators really must make that their WHY and integrate that into every step of their process…not letting the HOW (evaluation process) or WHAT (results) compromise the ultimate goal of achieving and celebrating an equitable society.

    Finally, the reflective questions that you posed are a great way to ensure that as evaluators, our WHY reverberates through every stage of the evaluative process. Many of the questions that you share require that evaluators exercise humility, honesty and transparency within their reflective process and evaluation – which will invariably assist with ensuring that equity remains at the forefront of our practices, even if it means making a few changes and circling back along the way.

    This post has definitely propelled me to take some time to ask these questions before, during and after engaging in evaluation – making sure that I ask them consistently, intentionally making it “a choice during each step” to promote equity from the inside out.

    Thanks again for opening up the dialogue around equity in evaluation!

    Natasha

  2. Hello Mr. Tebes,
    I agree that evaluators and the general population should strive to be as fair as they can in everything they set themselves to do.

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