Hi – I’m Heather Esper of the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan. One of the most critical moments in my time with AEA came during a plenary at the 2017 annual conference focused on Dialogue on Race and Class in America. I find myself going back to my notes from this session often.
The session called for us to take up more space as evaluators in decisions related to race, class and inequity. It proposed that, as evaluators, we have a responsibility to educate the client, and that we should judge our success as evaluators on what others learn from us. It challenged us to not let the client off the hook to think about their program narrowly, but rather as an intervention that has community level consequences.
Since then I’ve sought ways to apply the ideas raised in the plenary to the international and impact investing work I do by focusing on inequities encountered regularly in my evaluation practice. Inequities such as gender, income, ethnicity, education, access to a number of services and resources to name a few. Below I share some ideas (many gained from AEA) around using data to improve awareness of inequity, and to identify cases and the effects of inequity:
- Most evaluations track the equity of program outcomes, but consider also tracking the equity of program access, as well as equity of meaningful program participation. Further, use filters to assess the effects of the intersection of different identities on access, participation and impact. For example, instead of looking at impact on men compared to women, examine the differential impact on lower income women compared to higher income women, higher income men and lower income men. Rad resource: A Data-Driven Approach to Addressing Racial Disparities in Health Care Outcomes – Harvard Business Review – July 2020
- Include a focus on inequity in your proposals and reports, even if it is not explicitly asked for. Rad resource: My “Home-Made” Evaluation Tools to Avoid Gender (and Equity) Blindness – AEA 365 Mar 2019
- Use participatory processes or involve a cultural guide or local advisory group in the design process, as well as deciding what to analyze, how the data is used and when developing the recommendations. Rad resource: Decolonizing Data and Tech in Evaluation – AEA365 Oct 2019
- Make sure all voice are heard, not just those in power. Stay tuned for the next post in our series around stakeholder voices.
- Be an advocate for the generation and sharing of disaggregated data. Rad resource: Challenges and Opportunities of Disaggregated Data – AEA365 Sept 2018
Additional Rad Resources:
- How Data Can Map and Make Racial Inequality More Visible (If Done Responsibly) – The GovLab June 2020
- Using Free Data and Mapping Resources – AEA365 May 2020
I invite you to share what skills or resources have helped you change your evaluation practice around race, class and more broadly inequity in the comments section below so we can all continue to learn and grow together.
The American Evaluation Association is hosting Social Impact Measurement Week with our colleagues in the Social Impact Measurement Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our SIM 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 email@example.com. 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.