Adopting the Equitable Evaluation Framework

As we enter 2020, it is incumbent upon all of us to interrogate, refine, and evolve how we conceptualize much of what we have come to define as “the way things are done.” This is not merely the work of those who have (or are exploring) how to center racial equity but for all of us who truly seek transformational and systemic change that ensures that all people can thrive.

The Equitable Evaluation Initiative (EEI), launched in 2019 as a five-year initiative, invites those in the philanthropic ecosystem to evolve how we conceptualize evaluative practice. Shifts in how we engage in strategy, community engagement, communications, talent recruitment, etc. have been underway for a while and during that time evaluation has remained largely overlooked if not ignored. For some reason when discussions of evidence, knowledge, and data are challenged, people often find themselves defaulting to dominant culture thinking. In doing so, we miss seeing multiple truths, understanding complexity, and gathering truly valid data.

EEI advances a framework based on three principles:

1. Evaluation and evaluative work should be in service of equity.

2. Evaluative work should be designed and implemented commensurate with the values underlying equity work:

– multi-culturally valid, and

– oriented toward participant ownership.

3. Evaluative work can and should answer critical questions about the:

– ways in which historical and structural decisions have contributed to the condition to be addressed,

– effect of a strategy on different populations,

– effect of a strategy on the underlying systemic drivers of inequity, and

– ways in which cultural context is tangled up in both the structural conditions and the change initiative itself.

Over the past 18 months, a growing community of foundation learning and evaluation staff, consultants (individuals and firms), and associations have responded to the invitation. They are moving from Making the Case to Equipping for Transformation towards Adoption of EE Principles. There is recognition that this paradigm shift is not the sole responsibility of learning and evaluation staff. It requires a fundamental reimagining of evaluation which starts with us understanding the history that brought us to this moment and the underpinnings which we continue to hold as true, blindly.

PEAK Grantmaking understands the power and responsibility that grants makers and grants managers have in supporting strategy, programming, and learning. With that in mind and because this work clearly aligns with its 5 Principles for Peak Grantmaking, PEAK is a Field Partner to the Equitable Evaluation Initiative.

Join us at PEAK2020 pre-conference for Equitable Evaluation in Practice to mark the beginning of a relationship to engage PEAK’s membership in this work and to welcome them into the EEI Community. In this session, we will ground ourselves in the history of evaluative practice in philanthropy, explore the orthodoxies that we accept as “the ways thing are done,” and begin to identify the ways in which we, as tools of change for change, can create some new norms. Help us lay the groundwork for how equitable evaluation will evolve and be adopted in the next five years.

Jara Dean-Coffey is founder and director of the Equitable Evaluation Initiative.