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EE: What the Experts Say

In Part One of our two-part series on a new approach to evaluation, we found that defining exactly what equitable evaluation (EE) is has proven to be somewhat complicated. In this post we will highlight what some of the experts in this growing field are saying about the nuances of EE and how it can be qualified, embraced, and utilized. The Equitable Evaluation Initiative is one of the pioneers in this field. Their site has multiple guiding principles for EE and countless resources. One key part of their definition of EE is:

“To align evaluation practices with an equity approach—and even more powerfully, to use evaluation as a tool for advancing equity—evaluators must simultaneously consider all of these aspects: diversity of their teams moving beyond cultural to disciplines, beliefs, and lived experiences; cultural appropriateness and validity of their methods; ability of the design to reveal structural and systems-level drivers of inequality (present-day and historically); and the degree to which communities have the power to shape and own how evaluation happens.”

UNICEF has published a massive tome for evaluators to help them conduct evaluations with equitable results. They define EE as:

“The equity approach renews the challenge to evaluators to ensure that the voices of the poorest and most marginal people in society are heard and that their views count in decisions affecting their future. This is perhaps the simplest challenge facing evaluation for equitable development results – but it is probably also the hardest to achieve… An equity-focused evaluation is a judgment made of the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability – and, in humanitarian settings, coverage, connectedness and coherence – of policies, programs and projects concerned with achieving equitable development results.”

Public Policy Associates Incorporated have also written a comprehensive guide for evaluators seeking to conduct evaluations using an equity lens:

“Evaluators must recognize that different life experiences lead to different views of the world, and that linguistic, historical, and socioeconomic differences can be contributors and/or barriers to understanding. Evaluators should also recognize the continuing reality of white privilege and structural oppression that perpetuate racial inequity in America today and develop evaluation protocols that account for these factors. Finally, evaluators using this lens must recognize that each community has its own history and context, which must be acknowledged and considered when assessing the impact of social investments and developing findings and recommendations.”
These references highlight several key points of this new approach to evaluation; that evaluators need to learn about and from the diverse communities being evaluated; that they understand the pervasiveness of oppression and privilege in society today and throughout history; and that they ensure that all voices in the community are heard and considered.”

As we described in Part One of this series, evaluators need to understand their own bias, and recognize their own privilege to make certain that their evaluation practices do not reinforce the inequities and oppression in the populations and communities they are evaluating. So, how can that be done? Again, it’s complicated, but a good first step is for evaluators to embark upon real self-reflection of their work, their beliefs, their communities and their life experiences to gain a deeper understanding of their own biases and privilege. Accepting that personal and professional bias, whether implicit or not exists is key; moving on to understanding the bias and moving past it and engaging diverse stakeholders and evaluators in the work is crucial for being able to embrace an equity lens in evaluation work.

Additional resources on this topic are listed below and we encourage you to read them for more insight on evaluation and equity. If you have any follow-up questions to this blog post, or any other research and evaluation needs, please feel free to contact Dr. Annette Shtivelband (annette@researchevaluationconsulting.com).

Special thanks to Mindi Wisman for writing this blog post!

Additional Resources

House, E. R. (2017). Evaluation and the framing of race. American Journal of Education, 38(2), 167-189. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1098214017694963

Kirkhart, K. E. (2010). Eyes on the prize: Multicultural validity and evaluation theory. American Journal of Education, 31(3), 400-413. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1098214010373645

Power Moves: Your essential philanthropy assessment guide for equity and justice, National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy, https://www.ncrp.org/initiatives/philamplify/power-moves-philanthropy

The Importance of Culture in Evaluation: A Practical Guide for Evaluators. The Colorado Trust, http://www.communityscience.com/pdfs/CrossCulturalGuide.r3.pdf

Raising the Bar—Integrating cultural competence and equity: Equitable evaluation, The Foundation Review, https://scholarworks.gvsu.edu/tfr/vol6/iss2/8/