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Washington Evaluators Affiliate Week: Equitable and Accessible Communications by Katherine Braga

Hello readers, my name is Katherine Braga and I have the honor of writing to you as the Communications Committee Chair of Washington Evaluators (WE) – a position I’ve held for the past two years and will continue with in 2022. In addition, I serve as a Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Specialist within USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, contracted through Jefferson Solutions

Throughout this past week of AEA365 blog posts, my WE colleagues have connected each of their roles on the WE Board of Directors with a responsibility to antiracism and reflected on how they have actively embodied its principles and practices in their work in our organization. The Communications Committee has supported each of them and I have personally learned a lot. Therefore, to conclude this week of posts, I’d like to share a few lessons learned and some rad resources that have helped me learn along the way.

Part I: Language

It’s simple, words matter! With the ability to divide or unite, demean or empower, language is a tool that should not be used lightly. Lessons learned for language:

  • Evaluate your organization’s style guide to identify and address points of institutionalized exclusion or inequitable use. For example, do you use people-first language, standardize the use of preferred pronouns, and use non-gendered words in position descriptions? 
  • Understand that the context in which words are used and received can dramatically change their meaning. Intentionally framing the messaging of your organization can help address underlying concepts and ideas that continue to support antiracist principles and practices.
  • Meet your audience where they are instead of expecting a similar viewpoint as your own. This can be as straightforward as establishing definitions for commonly used words, or as complex as building a communications strategy. However, working together to find common ground is an established way to bring people together during a conflict.

Rad Resources:

Part II: Visuals and Data Visualizations

Best practices for creating and choosing visuals such as icons, photos, charts or graphs have evolved at a rapid pace over the past two years. However, even with an organization’s best intentions, inadvertent messages of discrimination often persist and must be addressed at their core. Lessons learned for visuals and data viz:

  • If a picture is worth a thousand words, make sure it’s a good picture! Even icons can carry notes of inequality. For example, when choosing an icon to bring your readers attention to a particular statistic or text block, take a step back to consider if it portrays a particular culture, skin color, ability or gender.
  • The visualization of data in the form of charts and graphs often reflects unconscious bias against marginalized groups. Characteristics of these visuals that are often dismissed as automatically generated, such as the language used in a legend or its color schemes, can illustrate significant choices in how data is presented to an audience.
  • As you ensure your data is accessible, be sure to consider reading and numeracy levels as well. Accessibility should be prioritized as an asset to an organization, not as a hurdle to overcome.

Rad Resources: 

As Washington Evaluators strives to uphold its commitment to embody antiracism principles and practices in evaluation we aim to listen, learn, grow and share with our members. Please join us as we continue to intentionally and publicly integrate these into our programming, mission and vision. You can reach out by emailing: communications@washingtonevaluators.org

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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