Dear friends and colleagues:

I hope you're as well as can be under the circumstances. I'm writing with an important call to action.

The field of evaluation has NEVER recognized a woman of color from the Americas among its theorists/founders, whether through its professional association's theory awards program, flagship journal's oral histories, or sacred Evaluation Theory Tree. It has similarly NEVER formally recognized a person of any gender identity or expression who is indigenous to the Americas.

Numerous graduates of doctoral programs in evaluation are shocked to learn AFTERWARDS that members of the global majority have been formally trained in evaluation at the doctoral level, publishing about it, practicing it, and actively engaged in its US professional association since its inception. They learn thanks to the work of Hood & Hopson (2008), Thomas & Campbell (2020), and me (Shanker, 2019), among others. That is to say nothing of all those engaged in evaluative thinking through other disciplines and ways of knowing that we also never learn about in doctoral programs.

One sacred text in the evaluation community, which passes on its culture through doctoral programs and elsewhere, is Evaluation Roots. It originated then developed the idea of an Evaluation Theory Tree, which includes no women of color from the USA and no one indigenous to the Americas. A new edition of Evaluation Roots is in the process of authorship/publication. It reinforces the idea that evaluation is white, with a few brown authors and topics now sprinkled in but with no substantive shift in the narrative and still no representation indigenous to the Americas.

Keep in mind that these are US editions being discussed here. The supposedly "international" edition includes a grand total of ONE indigenous woman, Nan Wehipeihana, who would be the first to say, "too little, too late." Only one woman of color/ indigenous woman--IN THE WORLD--merits mention on the sacred Evaluation Theory Tree?

Seeing evaluation as white, especially in the face of evidence that it is not and has never been, hurts us all. For one thing, it contributes to what is called "implicit" or "unconscious" bias. These are actually learned associations about racial hierarchies of superiority and inferiority, that are *implicit* in the repeated patterns of racial stratification that we see in everyday life about who deserves to lead and who deserves to be led.

Contributing to this narrative does material damage to all evaluators, evaluated programs, and especially participants in evaluated programs. Program participants are already, by definition, disproportionately suffering the effects of white supremacist, capitalist, cis-hetero-patriarchal, abelist systems.

Because evaluation is portrayed and perceived as white, white-led firms and white consultants continue to get a disproportionate number of government and philanthropic contracts for evaluation. They subsequently earn an income practicing in a way that fails to honor the humanity and agency of program participants and fails to look critically at what programs are doing from the perspective of reinforcing patterns of oppression. These evaluations shape our thinking.

Please disrupt this narrative and begin co-creating a counter-narrative of evaluation. Sign and share this Google Form demanding that Evaluation Roots and Guilford more generally amplify the voices of those whom evaluation otherizes as well as make amends for and reverse a century of exploitation, exclusion, marginalization, and erasure. Link for the google form

Signing is only one small part of a decades-long effort to dismantle oppressive systems as we build systems of healing and interdependence. We are well aware that we didn't start this work and, in fact, that is the impetus behind our insistence that those who did start it be recognized in the canon.

Vidhya Shanker, PhD

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Hi Vidhya, please would you share the link to the google form?  Thanks

Oh, sure--I had tried to embed the link but thanks to you, I see that that doesn't seem to have worked! Here it is:

Hi Vidhya, I signed the form and also shared from my experience:-) This is what I wrote:

Who owns the evaluation? Who owns the development? This is the question. It is not enough that we have evaluators of colour or from indigenous community. Are the evaluators ready to let go and allow communities particularly the most marginalised to take the lead ? The wisdom and lived experience of communities has been sidelined in development. Saviour attitude to 'help' the poor communities has created dependency on outsiders. Data combined with lived experience can help co-create solutions.

Yes--thanks so much!

And yet "participation" is also used to reinforce the dominance of those profiting from asymmetrical, oppressive power dynamics (you may know that Uma Kothari has written about this and whiteness in development). Prediction and control are intrinsic to positivism, which comes out of the European Enlightenment/ colonial project.

Lived experience IS data--it's another way of knowing. And so as much as people of color and indigenous people can also uphold white supremacy and colonization (like women can also uphold patriarchy), in a world where the distribution of wealth is racialized and gendered, and where whiteness is associated with authority, many evaluators of color and indigenous evaluators are just one generation or paycheck out of poverty at most. Many continue to have family members experiencing poverty and send them remittances. Many continue to struggle financially and occupationally themselves, because when we bring the understanding we've gained from our lived experiences of oppression (economic and other types) into our evaluation design and practice, we are punished for doing so.

So yes, it is necessary but insufficient for evaluators of color and indigenous evaluators to be represented in the field's canon. And we need to think about this field-wide and intergenerationally as opposed to in terms of individual projects.


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