Washington Evaluators Affiliate Week: Embodying Antiracism Principles and Practices in Evaluation – Commitments made by Washington Evaluators by Emily Bango

Hello everyone. My name is Emily Bango and I’m a monitoring, evaluation, research and learning specialist with Internews. I’ve served on the board of Washington Evaluators (WE) for several years. 

In the summer of 2020, like many individuals and organizations in the US and around the world, WE’s Board was compelled to speak up and take action following the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Tony McDade whose names are now included in the generations of Black Americans who have been harmed and killed at the hands of police and other racist, armed individuals. While violence against Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities was prevalent before and continues to this day, it was a moment when staying silent was not an option for our community. We quickly set up a taskforce to publish a statement of solidarity, but all agreed that wasn’t enough. The taskforce continued to meet once a month over the next year to develop our commitments to diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism, Embodying Antiracism Principles and Practices in Evaluation, a framework to support our actions and measure our progress. These commitments went through multiple revisions by the taskforce and the Board before being approved and published in August 2020.

As an initial step to act on our stated principles – we invested in external consultants, Paragon Education Consulting to lead our membership in a series of town halls to help inform WE’s 5-year strategic planning process. In early 2021, Paragon produced a report, Planning towards Equity, which helped to guide us in finalizing our five-year strategic plan and to inform future strategic planning processes. You can read more about this in a subsequent blog post written by my WE colleague and friend, Patricia Shaffer. Around this time, our task force disbanded, as our approach all along was to set up a framework that would ensure diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism that would be integrated across all that we do as a membership organization. It is up to us to maintain that focus moving forward.

Lessons Learned:

  • Patience is required – Nothing that we do towards dismantling systemic racism and oppression has a quick fix. While we collectively commit towards doing this work in our personal lives as well as professionally, we can avoid getting too discouraged by setbacks by remembering that change is messy, it takes time, and is not linear.
  • Have the hard conversations – We had, and continue to have, hard conversations about the role of WE in this work and how we can best show up. We need to keep stepping into the discomfort, while making sure to care for ourselves and our colleagues – especially our colleagues of color.
  • Meet people where they are – In order to bring as many people along as possible, we need to meet people where they are. Which means it sometimes feels like we are having the same conversations on repeat. That’s ok! We need to keep finding ways to connect and bring more folks along in the journey, while being clear about where we want to go.
  • Integrate concepts – Our commitments are integrated into our strategic plans, which will allow us to measure our progress overtime – a key element to ensuring that we are working toward embodying these principles in everything we do.
  • Accountability is key – We (WE Board and our members) are the ones that are for accountability in upholding these commitments. We need to be regularly returning to the commitments through our strategic planning process – and the plans themselves – now and in the future.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Washington Evaluators (WE) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from WE Affiliate 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. 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.

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