White Privilege Awareness Week: Relationship to Self: How it Supports Anti-Racist Evaluation Practice by Trilby Smith

Trilby Smith

Hi, I’m Trilby Smith (she/her).

I was born here, although I have lived in many other places in the interim before moving back to Vancouver 11 years ago. My ancestors are Anglican “smiths” – blacksmiths from the United Kingdom (on my father’s side) and Ashkenazi Jews from the Ukraine (on my mother’s side). Both sides of my family have been in Canada for many generations. I am on a continual journey to explore aspects of my family’s history, such as our involvement in the fur trade in Treaty 1 territory (Winnipeg). 

I am grateful for the invitation to be part of this series, and to explore relationship to self as part of this week’s exploration of relationships and how they support the practice of us white folks in evaluation. Invitation is a huge part of how I ended up here. By repeatedly (over the course of years) being invited to show up as my full self (with gratitude to Kris Archie, Jara Dean-Coffey, and so many others), I have developed a practice (and it is a practice… I’m working at it every day) that allows me to integrate all parts of my being into my work, and by doing this allows me to be present. In this post, I want to share a short teaching about presence and how it has transformed my evaluation practice.

Lessons Learned:  

One of the ways I have learned about presence is through Art of Hosting – methods of participatory leadership for facilitating group process. I could write a whole post exclusively about how this work has influenced my evaluation practice, but I will stay present. One of the central frameworks of Art of Hosting is the Four Fold practice, which says that people experience meaningful conversation when they are present, when they participate, when they are hosted, and when they co-create something. This first practice of presence has been transformational for me, and it is tied to how I have experienced the Norms of White Dominant Culture. Tema Okun teaches us that the characteristic of “being white” actually requires us to disconnect from our identities. In seeking something different, and moving towards transformational relationships, I believe that there is no better way to spend our time than getting present and connected with ourselves, our identities, our whole selves, and then with each other. 

So how has presence transformed my practice? As evaluators, many of us were taught that everything to do with being a good evaluator was external to our own identities. Being present flips that paradigm on its head. When I can bring all of my experience, my culture, my past, and my current state of being to my work, I can be truly present to the work at hand. In the anti-racist practice space this means I can act with the full force of my power and intention to the moment ahead of me. Taking the time to get present allows so much more to be possible.


The American Evaluation Association is hosting White Privilege Week with some of our colleagues who are working on undoing internalized white supremacy. 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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