SWB Week: Jim Cochran on Statistics Without Borders Statistical Capacity Building Efforts

Hi! I am Jim Cochran, co-founder and the Past Chair of Statistics Without Borders (SWB). SWB’s vision is to achieve better statistical practice, including statistical analysis and design of experiments and surveys, so that international health projects and initiatives are delivered more effectively and efficiently.

Lessons Learned:

  • Cultural competence is crucial. As Dominica McBride blogged on July 6, “Culturally competent evaluation practice requires self-awareness and self-reflection.” I agree and add that on the SWB projects to which I have contributed, I have also been repeatedly reminded of the importance of having committed partners in the countries in which SWB is working. SWB volunteers generally cannot be expected to understand the nuances of the cultural, political, social, economic, and legal environments, and understanding of these environments is crucial to the successful these resolutions of problems and implementations of solutions.
  • Effective evaluators are culturally competent. Later, Dr. McBride blogged that, “culturally competent evaluators respect the cultures represented in the evaluation.” I again agree and add that in order to be an effective evaluator, one must keep in mind that the evaluator likely will learn more from those being evaluated than those being evaluated will learn from the evaluator (which is extremely gratifying for SWB volunteers).

Hot Tips:

  • Join SWB. You do not have to be a member of the American Statistical Association to do so. You may not feel that you have the statistical know-how to help, but many projects involve only a moderate level of sophistication, and if you have keen insight into particular culture you could be very helpful!
  • SWB is everywhere! SWB volunteers work all over the world on a wide variety of problems. Countries in which our volunteers have worked include Mexico, Sierra Leone, Fiji, Haiti, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, North Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, and the Republic of the Congo.
  • SWB builds capacity. SWB’s efforts often lead its volunteers to evaluation of practices, methods, and programs for NPOs that provide aid and humanitarian relief in developing nations, so SWB and the AEA have much in common.

Rad Resources:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Statistics Without Borders Week. The contributions all week come from SWB 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. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluator.

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