Reality TV Lessons Week: Making Meaningful Connections: Reality TV and Culturally Responsive Equitable Evaluation by Karyl Askew & Monifa Beverly

Greetings! I am Karyl Askew, Founder and Principal Consultant of Karyl Askew Consulting, LLC along with Monifa Beverly, Independent Evaluation Consultant and Collaborator. We are U.S. born Black cisgender female evaluation consultants who commit to culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE) that invites multicultural perspectives into program development and evaluation to promote inclusion and equity.

We chose 90-Day Fiancé as we reflected on the parallels between reality TV and evaluation. In 90-Day Fiancé, the relationships of multiple couples, consisting of U.S. citizens and foreign fiancés, are shown as they decide whether to marry. Initially, the couples are excited to see each other but in subsequent episodes, we witness tears, screaming, and often insults.

Prepare for the relationship (in virtual spaces)

Though many of the couples have had months of virtual interactions before meeting, often the fiancés have not met each other’s families, or learned a great deal about the other’s culture.

For Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment, one of the most important steps of evaluations is conducting a contextual analysis, which requires relationship building. We must remember that we are not only engaging with the program but also with the cultural, political, and historical factors that surround and impact the program.

In this interconnected world, like the aspiring 90-Day Fiancés, evaluators are increasingly finding themselves interacting in virtual spaces with clients and communities who may be across town, the continental US, or the globe. How do we navigate CREE in virtual spaces? As consultants working on projects that span multiple states, we utilize emails, online feedback forms, videoconference calls, and interactive collaborative platforms. To ensure all voices, especially our community partners, are lifted in conversation, we must consider how we design interactions in virtual spaces to ensure and consider accessibility and comfort-level with technologies.

Rad Resource: 

Check out reflections on ways to invite equity in virtual spaces; This is an artifact of a 2020 American Evaluation Association (AEA) Think Tank sponsored by the Multi-Ethnic Issues in Evaluation TIG whose members share a mission “to develop a spirit of inclusiveness and a reputation of quality in the American Evaluation Association”.

Determine if you are providing Helpful-Help

During many of the shows, family members and friends determine that it is their duty to “help” the couple overcome their differences. However, much of this “help” is forced, inauthentic, and ultimately damaging.

As evaluators, Symonette (2015) summons us to provide Helpful-Help, which requires us to be reflective practitioners as we calibrate, come to know, and activate ourselves in the context of where and with whom we are working. We cannot offer Helpful-Help if we are not responsive to community stakeholders and ensure they are part of the decision-making process.

Rad Resource

Check out this visually adapted version of the international association for public participation’s (iap2) Spectrum of Public Participation. The Spectrum helps project stakeholders and evaluators cultivate trust by clarifying expectations for participation and impact on decisions. (Thanks for life-changing trainings, Dr. Symonette!)

This week, AEA365 is hosting Reality TV Lessons Week where contributing authors share lessons learned from their guilty pleasure favorite TV shows. 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 “Reality TV Lessons Week: Making Meaningful Connections: Reality TV and Culturally Responsive Equitable Evaluation by Karyl Askew & Monifa Beverly”

  1. Loran Bennett

    Hello!
    As an addict to the 90 Day Fiancé series I loved reading your article! I too believe that one of the most common issues with the couples on the show is their cultural differences. I also cant hep but notice that the families who are in America find it way harder to accept the 90 day engagements than those who live outside of the United States, which is probably the most common differences is culture on the show. Americans tend to be stuck up and proud and the excuse they use is that they don’t want people coming into the country with bad intentions, when in reality they are close minded and not open to change!
    Thank you !

  2. I am do watch the shows 90 day fiancé and agree most of the couples do not stay together due to the culture change they have when moving in together. I can somewhat relate, because i married my husband only seeing him on the weekends for five months. After we got married he deployed for about 11 months, where we would keep in touch through emails or webcam. When he got back we moved in together, and it was a big change for myself, since I have been living with my family my whole life. It took a lot of work to get use to everything, and agree it couldn’t be done in 90 days. Which I didn’t move across the world, it was still hard for the change. After the first 2 years of living together we got better at it, and have now been married 11 years.

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