Why should I Be Interested in Social Justice? by Jen LoPiccolo

Hello, AEA Community! My name is Jen LoPiccolo and I’m an evaluator with BECOME, a social change agency in Chicago with a mission to nourish communities affected by poverty and injustice to make their vision of a thriving community a reality. I’m excited to share why I believe the field of evaluation can be catalytic in creating a more just world.

Evaluation teams often hold a variety of skillsets: critical thinking, statistical analysis, conceptual / design skills, report writing, facilitating, presenting, community engagement and more. Additionally, our work often occurs in partnership with a unique intersection of stakeholders including community participants in social service programs, non-profit or government program providers, philanthropic leaders, key decision makers, and families. This interesting proximity to multiple groups positions us as evaluators to bridge the gaps for social change and inform powerful structures on community insights and learnings. 

Given our positionality, it is imperative that we recognize the power and responsibility we have to our communities. We are charged with taking data from collection through analysis, report writing, and utilization. However, we do not always have a process that allows people experiencing a program to hold us accountable through providing them with an opportunity to collectively interpret the data. 

HOT TIP: Involve community in each step of the process by including them from the beginning of the evaluation design by forming a committee. Community members benefiting from or interested in joining a program bring a critical lens to developing evaluation questions, thinking through methods that are responsive to their community’s cultural logistics, and identifying gaps that evaluators may overlook. 

HOT TIP: Contextualize your data for your audience. Often in Chicago communities and elsewhere, the various audiences reading a final evaluation reports, building strategy from the findings, and making key decisions from key recommendations may be disconnected from the community participants impacted most by the program. 

RAD RESOURCE: In the article Eyes on the Prize: Multicultural Validity, Dr. Kirkhart illustrates why validity requires congruence between an evaluation theory and its cultural context.

In addition to thinking about the context surrounding our evaluation theory and situating our data, it is equally important to consider the broader narrative about the participants in programs we are evaluating. For example, while working with a fatherhood program on the southside of Chicago, it’s critical to consider the way negative stereotypes may come up and be conscious of framing our report narrative from a strengths-based and human-centered approach. 

You can look forward to hearing from James tomorrow on how to integrate social justice into your work.

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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