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Celebrating Black History Month: The Invisible Labor of Women of Color and Indigenous Women in Evaluation by Vidhya Shanker

This week, we celebrate Black History Month with our colleagues in the Multicultural Issues in Evaluation (MIE) TIG. The contributions this week are evergreen posts contributed by MIE TIG members about topics so important, they’re worth a second read.

-Liz DiLuzio, Lead Curator

I’m Vidhya Shanker from Rainbow Research, where we are exploring what structural change really means. I’m sometimes asked, “Why are there so few people of color in evaluation?” I flip the question: “Why is evaluation so white?” And answer: “Because our labor is actively erased.”

Of the 35 recipients of the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Evaluation Theory Award since 1977, 28 evaluators listed in the sacred Evaluation Theory Tree published in 2004, 22 evaluators featured in the related Evaluation Roots book published in 2004, and 16 evaluators featured by AEA’s Oral History Project since 2003, not one has been a woman of color or indigenous woman.

This omission can lead us to conclude that for the last 40 years, no women of color or indigenous women have been academically trained as evaluators, conducting formal evaluations, and engaged in scholarship on evaluation—let alone engaged in evaluative thinking and critical inquiry that are considered outside the boundaries of evaluation. Or that their work is fringe.

The evaluation work of several women of color and indigenous women allows us to do the work that we do every day. This post aims to repair the miseducation of evaluators of all ages and experience levels, especially numerous graduate students from communities of color and indigenous communities who have expressed to me their sense of isolation and shock that they are not necessarily the first or only person in evaluation to represent the groups with whom they identify. Today’s post focuses on Anna Marie Madison, recently retired professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

Dr. Anna Madison had been a member of the two professional associations—the Evaluation Research Society and Evaluation Network—that merged to form the American Evaluation Association in the mid-1980s. During the term of Bob Covert, AEA’s second president, she led the precursor to what is now the Multi-ethnic Issues in Evaluation Topical Interest Group. It started as the Minority Task Force and became a Topical Interest Group that focused on recruiting and providing professional development and networking opportunities for members from groups that continue to be excluded from philanthropic and government evaluation contracts. The TIG also educated the larger AEA membership about systemic bias. Madison edited and wrote about participant groups’ self-determination through evaluation in the first and only volume of New Directions for Evaluation to directly address evaluation’s role relative to structural racialization. Additionally, she systematically assessed the journal’s coverage of issues related to under-represented groups.

Rad Resources:

Hot Tip:

All knowledge comes from somewhere. Find out where and honor your ancestors: cite them, nominate them for awards, write about them, and include them in your syllabi.

Hot Tip:

“Structural change” means that evaluation as a field, and the industries it serves, changes their socio-economic relations—meaning the flow of resources—with disenfranchised groups. “Resources” include the currency of citations, and “changing the flow” requires transparency about processes for decision making and criteria for selection.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Multicultural Issues in Evaluation (MIE) TIG Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our MIE 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. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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