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From words to action: towards equitable evaluation

Back in October 2020, we ran a workshop aimed to help us move from conversations about anti-racism in evaluation towards action. Building on the NPC Ignites event on how to rebalance data in the 21st Century, Bonnie Chiu facilitated a great session to explore the barriers we face in adopting equitable evaluation practices and also where we need more support.

We are thrilled to share insights generated from the workshop with you. We’ve pulled out 5 key headlines in this blog and explain how this is shaping ChEW’s future plans. If you’re interested, you can also read the detailed findings in the attached document available to download below.

# 1 We don’t always design evaluations with equity in mind (and there are various reasons for this). As a result, there are insufficient resources in budgets to enable inclusive evaluation practices. Members also raised that if the project itself doesn’t have equity embedded in it, then it can be difficult to integrate this at the evaluation stage as it’s seen as an ‘add-on’.

#2 There are different understandings of what counts as good evidence and perceptions on methodological rigour between different actors (e.g. research bodies and communities, or funders, commissioners and charities). There is also some disparity around use of scientific language, which can create additional barriers to engagement. Opening up conversations about this in a collaborative way could help us redefine rigour, examine what counts as useful evidence and co-produce equitable methodological approaches.

#3 There is a desire for equitable evaluation to become standard practice, so evaluators need to have more open conversations with funders and commissioners about why we need to make this shift and what this takes. We also need to recognize that there are power dynamics at play here and that ChEW and others have a role to play in shifting evaluation norms.

#4 We don’t consistently collect ethnicity data in standardized ways and rarely are outcomes disaggregated by ethnicity. This can make it difficult to apply an equity lens to a specific intervention and limits our ability to compare across interventions.

#5 We need to do more to promote evaluation and research as a career option to broader range of people. Part of the problem is that there is limited visibility of M&E or research type roles in charity sector and another part is that we have fixed ideas about what an evaluator looks like (e.g. their experience, technical skills). We need to broaden our thinking and challenge these fixed ideas, particularly in recruitment processes, and create entry level positions (e.g. paid internships, vocational training) that have equity in mind.

So, what does this mean for ChEW?

We think that we can address some of these challenges directly and we want to do more to support our members to do so too, so we commit to:

  • running an event in the new year on how to embed equity in the design of an evaluation and into budgets.

  • sharing stories from people of colour evaluators and other underrepresented groups.

  • ensuring that we are including a diverse range of voices in our events.

We also recognise that we have a role to play in the evaluation space and have identified some themes that we think would benefit from more of a sector-wide approach. We commit to:

  • sharing the insights from the workshop with our other partners to see what we can do collectively, particularly to diversify talent – these include Coalition for Efficiency, Inspiring Impact, NPC and UK Evaluation Society.

  • co-hosting an event in 2021, including funders, commissioners and academics, on what counts as good evidence.

  • working with Bonnie Chiu and the People of Colour Evaluators and Researchers Group to see how we can support their work and be effective allies.

What does this mean for you?

In reflecting on these findings, we realised that as individuals we also need to do more to interrogate our own privilege and how that reinforces systems of oppression. We expect that this is going to be an uncomfortable learning curve for many of us, but as ChEW Trustees, we are committed to putting in the work and leaning into the discomfort. As a result, we will be sharing some personal reflections on this over the coming months, so watch this space.

We’d love you to join conversation and let us know what these insights will mean for you and your organisation.

ChEW equitable evaluation workshop debri
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