Report calls for shift to more equitable evaluation practices

Report calls for shift to more equitable evaluation practices

A report from the Equitable Evaluation Initiative (EEI) and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations highlights how foundations are working to integrate an equity lens into their evaluation practices.

Based on discussions with staff at six EEI partner foundations, the report, Shifting the Evaluation Paradigm: The Equitable Evaluation Framework™ (42 pages, PDF), found that while foundations have begun to more intentionally integrate equity into their program, governance, operational, and investment decisions, most have not done so with regard to their evaluation practices. EEI's Equitable Evaluation Framework comprises three principles — that evaluation and evaluative work should be in service to equity; that such work should be designed and implemented to be multiculturally valid and oriented toward participant ownership; and that it should address how historical and structural decisions as well as cultural context have contributed to inequity. The framework also notes a number of evaluation orthodoxies that should be challenged, including "grantees and strategies are the [subject of an evaluation], but not the foundation" and "evaluators are the experts and final arbiters; grantees are the beneficiaries."

According to the report, the entry point for engagement with more equitable evaluation practices will vary from foundation to foundation. Foundation staff participating in the discussion called out "a need to assess readiness for change — willingness, ability, and facilitative conditions — among individuals, teams and organizations" and a "fluidity required to engage in the continual evolution of process, understanding and adoption." In their engagement with the framework, practitioners identified three key shifts in mindset: from "doing" to "being" (i.e., shifting from transactional data collection to building relationships); from "scarcity" to "abundance" (leveraging resources to support, develop, and uplift emerging practices); and from "fixed" to "growth" (understanding that equitable evaluation is not an endgame or destination but rather an ongoing process requiring consistent effort).

"Aligning values and using agency and influence to champion engagement…requires the ability to influence conversations that shift culture and practice, and impact resource allocation," the report's authors write. "These efforts support the decisions and subsequent actions required to make change and step into the unknown. They also necessitate being open to trial, error, and trying again and understanding that resistance is part of the growth and learning process."

"Shifting the Evaluation Paradigm: The Equitable Evaluation Framework™." Equitable Evaluation Initiative and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations report 04/30/2021.