RT&C Week: Are we loving bravely enough? by Tom Kelly, Shiree Teng & Audrey Jordan

At the Evaluation 2019 closing plenary in Minneapolis Jennifer Greene invited the audience of evaluators to consider how to include and prioritize grace in our evaluations. Just a few months before AEA2019 Shiree Teng and Sammy Nuñez had just published, “Measuring Love in the Journey for Justice: A Brown Paper,” where they underscore that our work creating and measuring social change is grounded in love—love of and hope for the people in our lives and communities. Yet, they note:

“The social sector is too short on mentions of love as tied to results and transformation”

I am Tom Kelly, VP of Evaluation & Impact at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation and AEA board member. This is my 30th year in evaluation and this paper provoked my already growing uneasiness that I have been failing in my work by not evaluating the right things in the right ways. In this week of relationships and connection I wanted to reach out to colleagues and friends I trust and love to help me understand how we do better – how evaluation and love work together.

Shiree Teng has worked in the social sector for 30+ years as a social and racial justice champion—as a front line organizer, advocate, network facilitator, capacity builder, grantmaker, and evaluator and learning partner.

Shiree offers this Rad Resource:  “Today we re-introduce our Brown Paper: Measuring Love as we watch with horror police murders of too many Black and Brown people across the country. It is becoming more clear to more people that our police force, and the associated “law and order” policies of over-incarceration, having millions of our brothers and sisters on probation or parole as a means of continued social control needs to fundamentally change, as in defunding the police.

  • If our policies were created from a place of love for our people, what would these policies look like?
  • If our work to “e-valuate” started from a place of love, how might we act differently?
  • If our words in our reports were rooted from a place of love, how might that change how people view “e-valuation” reports?

Audrey Jordan said, ‘take the e out of evaluation, what you get is valuate… that’s our job, is to lift up the values in the work.’”

Audrey Jordan is an independent consultant (ADJ Consulting and Coaching) with expertise in evaluation, learning, results accountability, and capacity building. Audrey is also a certified executive life coach focused on “accompanying social justice leaders and teams to unchain power for transformation.”

Audrey offers us Rad Resources: “I think Measuring Love speaks to the problem that we “professionals” have learned to be “objective” and bring our “expertise” to interactions with clients/consumers/customers/community members.  Them.  Now I am ridding myself of such white dominant culture constructions that my good friend Bill Traynor calls habits of detachment.  I am unlearning those destructive habits and learning the importance of what Bryan Stevenson calls proximity in the arena of mutual sharing and support for us all to be the most of our authentic selves that we can be.

This week, we’re diving into issues of  Relationship, Trust, & Connection (RTC)  with reflections on the roles they play in evaluation. 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 “RT&C Week: Are we loving bravely enough? by Tom Kelly, Shiree Teng & Audrey Jordan”

  1. Hi Tom, Shiree, and Audrey,

    My name is Madison and I’m a student new to the study of evaluation.

    Your entry struck a chord in me because as a new student to evaluation, I’m finding my footing between balancing qualitative and quantitative data to have a clear picture of a program.

    Tom, when you write of grace in evaluation, you write how often, social sectors are “short on mentions of love as tied to results and transformation.” This comment stuck with me as generally, these programs and program evaluations come from a place of love and a desire to improve community, so where is the heart in evaluation?

    Shiree, I agree that the resource Measuring Love “speaks to the problem that we “professionals” have learned to be “objective” and bring our “expertise” to interactions with clients/consumers/customers/community members.” Thank you for showing me a resource that will surely impact me on my evaluation journey. At the heart of these program evaluations, we are evaluating social programs and though we need to be critical, it needs to be balanced with grace. It’s critical that we start our evaluations from a place of love to ensure they remain holistic and valuable to the program. When we develop key questions from a place of love when creating policy, etc, it speaks to the heart of those benefiting from the program or policy.

    Audrey, by unlearning destructive habits and learning the importance of proximity, the arena of mutual sharing, I think that’s a positive step in the right direction towards developing grace in our evaluations. By unlearning our habits of detachment, we give the space to feel attachment and understanding with those who benefit from the program or policy that is being evaluated.

    Thank you for this excellent, thought provoking piece about extending grace in evaluation. I feel very fortunate to have been able to read and resonate with this at the start of my evaluation journey; reminding myself that when evaluation is bottom up from a place of love, I am able to explore more openly and authentically. Further, thank you for sharing such great resources, such as Brown Paper: Measuring Love, and Bill Traynor’s Building Community in Place: Limitations and Promise. Your opinions led me to explore these papers that I otherwise might not have seen.

    1. Thank you, Madison, for your comments and taking the time to reply. We are glad it resonated and hope it will be useful in your developing work and practice.

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