Reflections on Constructivism Week: (Re)Constructing Identity and Hierarchy by Fernando Ospina

My name is Fernando Ospina and I am a PhD student in sociology at Western Michigan University. I had the opportunity to take a qualitative methods in evaluation course in the Interdisciplinary PhD in Evaluation program. As a part of our coursework we wrote blog posts analyzing Lincoln and Guba’s constructivist conjectures. The conjecture that I will be discussing is:

B11. Personal as well as cultural identities are formed and understood through interactions between and among multiple individuals situated in the same, or metaphorically or vicariously similar, surround. (p. 49)

I currently work on a team that oversees evaluations for local Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation work. As an evaluator, I occupy a position that is accountable to the funder while also attempting to support improvement of the racial justice movement work. I can feel the tension of fulfilling contractual obligations determined by a predominantly white, wealthy, and hierarchical institution; while also working to embody the dismantling of entrenched social hierarchies. I am attempting to practice evaluation within a hierarchy while also seeking to dismantle those very hierarchies.

I prefer work that intends to equalize and empower others. It feels better. More work gets done. Relationships get stronger. It is the work that I want to do. When I fail to be reflexive and revert to the habitual behaviors of my professional training, I can feel that too. I feel the power imbalance, the mistrust. I feel the hierarchy. It’s in the relationships that it becomes obvious. If I am not attentive, evaluation transforms from a means of solving mutual problems to a means of imposition.

Resisting the tendency to revert to hierarchical norms, especially when working with others to strengthen racial equity, takes work. It involves acceptance that:

  • I enter any room with power, whether or not I want it – and it derives from those in the room and their perception of me
  • sharing power requires intention
  • my growth as a human being necessitates that I listen deeply to those who have experienced oppression
  • it is in my personal interest to build relationships of trust and mutual support

Our identity and our practice are inherently shaped by the situated surround and it is important that we are attentive to those forces. Concurrently, as evaluators we have the positional power to create moments that shape situations and our relationships in those situations, ultimately (re)constructing ourselves through the process.

Rad Resources:

There is a plethora of resources available for learning about the work of Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation. Here are a few:

  1. https://vimeo.com/196593238
  2. http://www.racialequityresourceguide.org/TRHTSummit
  3. https://www.michiganfoundations.org/
  4. https://www.aacu.org/trht-campus-centers

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Reflections on Constructivism Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 are from Michael Harner’s students in the Interdisciplinary PhD in Evaluation program at Western Michigan University and are reflections on Yvonna Lincoln and Egon Guba’s conjectures on constructivism described in their book The Constructivist Credo. 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.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on Constructivism Week: (Re)Constructing Identity and Hierarchy by Fernando Ospina”

  1. Vidhya Shanker

    Good to “see you here,” Fernando! And excellent, substantive post–thanks. Any historically white system that insists on retaining its hierarchy is likely going to struggle to become anti-racist.

    –Vidhya

  2. Great post! I appreciate your open and personal perspective. Learning how to identify and share power is perhaps the most important skill an evaluator must have.

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