YEE Week: Emerging Evaluators’ Ethos on Transformational Change by Phung Pham and Ann Marie Castleman

Greetings! We are Phung Pham and Ann Marie Castleman, emerging evaluators from Claremont Graduate University. In reflecting on transformational change, we have been thinking about what may be our emerging evaluators’ ethos.

Today marks the second anniversary of the World Health Organization being officially informed about what is now known as SARS-CoV-2, a novel coronavirus causing the COVID-19 disease. To date, more than 5 million people around the world have lost their lives to COVID-19. This pandemic is a disaster that is far too acutely felt by some and seemingly not at all for others. The same can be said of climate change, to which no one is immune. 

Increasingly, what is happening in one part of the world is not so disconnected from what is happening in another part, and the contrast between then and now may not be so stark. As we strive for transformational change, we face the juxtaposition of past, present, and future. This means that we need to learn, unlearn, and relearn from our individual and collective histories as we respond, as calmly as possible, to health insecurity, climate change, racial injustice, and other insidiously wicked problems of our times. Rodney Hopson and Fiona Cram, in their edited volume, describe “wicked problems in complex ecologies” as complex, interconnected issues that defy easy solutions. Approaching wicked problems requires transdisciplinary responses. For those of us new to this approach, crossing disciplines means learning to see and think in systems. It also means co-creating a common language with people from different backgrounds, training experiences, and sectors, and recognizing that words truly matter. Words can evoke or stifle evaluative thinking for transformational change, and they can also incite and divide, or inspire and unite. For example, as we call upon ourselves to “fight injustice,” the following question arises: do we really want to fight, or do we want to heal?

If healing is our true goal, then global collaboration is one way to help us actualize it. Adeline Sibanda and Zenda Ofir, in their book chapter, called upon evaluators across the globe to draw upon the variety of experiences and knowledge systems available and form South-South and South-North partnerships for collective action to create transformation in evaluation. For some of us, this may require learning to work cross-culturally, giving up power and control, and being open to and appreciative of perspectives that may be different than our own. Decolonizing evaluation approaches and methodologies needs to be a part of this collective action as well.

Moreover, as emerging evaluators in the quest for transformational change, we believe in the value of both introspection andextrospection alongside empathy and hope. And we believe that no matter where each of us are in the evaluation journey, we must hold fast to an ethos that harmoniously brings out the best in ourselves and others.

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The American Evaluation Association is hosting the Young and Emerging Evaluators (YEE) Week. The contributions all week come from YEE 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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