CP TIG Week: Reflections on Speaking Truth to Power by Ann Price

I’m Ann Price, an evaluator and community psychologist based in the Atlanta Metro Area and President of Community Evaluation Solutions. As we get ready for Eval 2018 I want to share my reflections on our conference theme, speaking truth to power, one of four community psychology principles.

Rad Resource: The community psychology principles, developed by the Society for Community Research and Action, guide our work as community psychologists and should resonate with evaluators. One says:

Community research and action requires explicit attention to and respect for diversity among peoples and settings

I am particularly struck by the words “requires explicit attention to.” Recently, I was in New York City and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, spending considerable time in the Adrian Piper exhibit. I was not familiar with her work, but one series of photographs caused me to stop in my tracks as this particular series was emblazoned with these words in red ink: “Pretend not to know what you know”. Some photos depicted violence against African Americans; in another, a white woman and her healthy, smiling little boy in between two other photos of women with their starving immigrant children. In another exhibit section Ms. Piper asked a series of multiple choice questions one of which was Q: Do you have at least one black friend? A. If yes, how often do you have contact with him or her? Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, none of the above.

Our conference theme has already generated a lot of conversation and some strong emotions. I think speaking truth to power has to first start with ourselves. As a practitioner who works in communities, self-reflection is a necessary exercise. One of my clients is going through a year-long process of race, equity, and inclusion training. I suspect this work has started an awakening in many of the participants, of which I am one, and who like me, thought they were more attentive then they actually are.

So today I am inviting you to ask yourself: What do I need to attend to? What am I pretending not to know that I really do know? Doing the work evaluators do has to start with some serious self-reflection and if necessary, making amends. Then, listening more than talking as another great next step. Enriching your practice through education, readings, self-reflection, and experiences is also needed. In addition to Piper’s exhibit, here are some things I have been attending to lately:

Rad Resources: Some documentaries to generate discussions:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating CP TIG Week with our colleagues in the Community Psychology Topical Interest Group. The contributions all week come from CP TIG members. 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.

2 thoughts on “CP TIG Week: Reflections on Speaking Truth to Power by Ann Price”

  1. Dear Ms. Price,

    Thank you for your insightful article. I am a graduate student at Queen’s University and am currently taking a class on Program Evaluation. We recently reflected on dilemmas in evaluation and I was drawn to the idea of evaluator bias. Your article does a great job of reminding readers that is it our job to do the work to speak truth to power and improve ourselves and practice. It is not on other people to do this for us, we must ask the questions, self-reflect, potentially make amends and educate ourselves. We all have internalized bias which we may or may not be aware of and it is important to push ourselves to recognize them.

    The line in your article that struck me the most was “listening more than talking”. It seems like an obvious notion, but modern day politics shows us that it is not. If we as evaluators want people to feel comfortable and able to share information about their experience we need to be practicing listening, this need is even more pressing when working in new communities and environments.

    In your experience, have you found that people react well to the suggestions you have made in your article?

    As well, thanks for sharing the great resources.

    Alison

  2. How very interesting it is that I should be reading this article at this particular moment in time. I am a Canadian from Ontario, “English Canada,” visiting Quebec City, a definitively French-Canadian City. This is my first visit to this beautiful place, rich with history and culture, the likes of which I have not seen anywhere else in this country. Growing up I can remember the rise and fall of separatism movements; those were tense times for Canadians, with Quebecers threatening to separate from Canada, mostly in an effort to maintain their distinct culture and identity. I remember thinking that Quebecers must be a selfish and ungrateful people to consider turning their backs on Canada, and so I avoided coming here, until now.
    This week I’ve been immersed in the Quebecois culture, have learned about their incredible history and how they were defeated by the British centuries ago, but have remained vigilant in maintaining their language, religion, and traditions. I have a new-found appreciation for the plight of these people, and to what extent they have maintained their unique identify at all costs.
    So in answer to your question, “what do I need to attend to?”, I need to consider that in any conflict, debate, or argument, there are always as many perspectives as their are stakeholders. Everyone has a particular frame of reference, and even though it may not be the same as my own , I need to make an effort to honour it, or at least acknowledge it, rather than rushing to judge it.

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