Social Justice Is More Than a Sign by Ann Del Vecchio

Hello. I am Ann Del Vecchio and I run Alpha Assessment Associates, LLC, a small evaluation firm in Albuquerque New Mexico.  A3 specializes in planning and evaluating education and health programs in the Southwest and Midwest. Our mission is to provide research, program planning, and evaluation services that improve the quality of life for the people involved in the programs we help to plan and evaluate.

After the 2016 presidential election, turquoise signs cropped up in my neighborhood and around Albuquerque. The signs started with…In this house we believe…..  The signs were seen and understood as we moved through the initial year of a new administration nationally. But social justice is more than a sign. It’s the way we behave. Usually our behavior follows our feelings, attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs. Anyone who has struggled with losing weight, addiction in any form, or self-regulation and giving up short term rewards for long term goals knows that behavior DOES NOT always follow beliefs. We tell people what to do and we wonder why they are not doing it?????

The ”how” as in how to enact social justice involves establishing and using guidelines for one’s behavior. Do I navigate my world mindlessly, making judgements based on my own built-in set of unchallenged biases, feelings, attitudes, and thoughts?  Here is my go-to list of questions to guide my behavior and challenge my mindless judgements.

For example, I am meeting a new evaluation client for the first time. They have a grant that they wrote and the funder requires evaluation.  I meet them at their office and where the program will be implemented.  I arrive on time and am buzzed into the office. The Director points the way to a small windowless room without greeting me, identifying themselves or making eye contact. They gruffly shove the grant proposal my way without any explanation and then state, “We have to have an evaluator for this.”

Cool Trick / Lessons Learned:

  1. Why am I irritated with this person?
  2. What form does my judgement take? What is it based on??
  3. What measurement forms the foundation for my judgement? What facts and observations are part of my “measurement”?
  4. Is that measurement objective or related to some long held biased belief? Do my own cultural standards and use of language form part of my measurement?
  5. What is an unbiased way to measure? Assess? Judge what is going on here- in this meeting, with this potential evaluation client?
  6. How can I evaluate my thoughts and feelings before I act on them?
  7. What information do I need in order to make sure my measurement is unbiased and will lead to a productive decision for all stakeholders (including me)?

This list of questions is not exhaustive but it’s a start to making social justice more than a yard-sign in my life. It involves the pain and pleasure of being mindful and observing my own life.

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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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