WMU Week: Kelly Robertson on the Depths of Culture and What it Looks Like in Practice

My name is Kelly Robertson and I am a project manager at The Evaluation Center and a student in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation program at Western Michigan University. This fall I was fortunate enough to have been able to attend several lectures and discussions led by visiting scholar Dr. Rodney Hopson which left me with two thought provoking questions regarding the depths of culture and what it looks like in practice.

Lesson Learned: Where’s culture if the standard –isms are not of primary focus? AEA’s Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation defines culture as, “the shared experiences of people, including their languages, values, customs, beliefs, and mores. It also includes worldviews, ways of knowing, and ways of communicating.” Most often when I think of culture I think of the examples cited in the statement, “race/ethnicity, religion, social class, language, disability, sexual orientation, age, and gender.” When Dr. Hopson asked staff to briefly describe the role of culture within each of our projects, I found it difficult to identify culture in projects that did not explicitly deal with the most commonly referenced –isms. Later different aspects of culture started to become more salient such as the culture of organizations I work with in which evaluations and methods are mandated and how my communication with clients sometimes differs based on the culture of their respective organizations. I also began to think about what it means, in some cases, if certain questions about the common –isms are not addressed within the work of evaluands, do unasked questions say something about culture? This thought process got me to realize that culture is a part of everything we do and that I need to engage in more self-reflection about my own cultures to thoroughly become aware of the cultures around me.

Lesson Learned: How can engagement in a culturally competent process be demonstrated in evaluation reports and incorporated into metaevaluation? After listening to Drs. Hopson and Stufflebeam discuss the Program Evaluation Standards, I began to wonder how evaluators can document that they have engaged in a culturally competent process and how to determine if other evaluators did the same from written reports. What are the criteria and indicators that should be used to make such a determination? Further, is it possible for an evaluator to demonstrate both independence while at the same time engaging in a participatory evaluation, at a level beyond just participation in data collection, as is often suggested in reference to a culturally competent process?

Rad Resources:

Here’s the public statement on cultural competence: http://www.eval.org/ccstatement.asp

While we should all own a copy of the Program Evaluation Standards, they have been summarized online and can be freely accessed here: http://www.eval.org/evaluationdocuments/progeval.html

All this week, we’re highlighting posts from colleagues at Western Michigan University as they reflect on a recent visit from incoming AEA President Rodney Hopson. 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. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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