Why Evaluation Matters in Diversity Work

The recent City of Richmond Diversity Symposium in Canada created an opportunity for conversation about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and our panel weighed in on why evaluation matters. In cities where populations have diverse demographic and cultural identities, what is the role of evaluation?

Kim van der Woerd of Reciprocal Consulting provided a context, noting that diversity is a troubling term when you consider how this concept has been around for a long time and the needle has not moved. In Canada, Indigenous people still lack fundamental rights and services, and intergenerational trauma effected by the state creates systemic problems that cannot be addressed by framing issues around individuals.

Jasmina Fatic of MNP shared examples of two evaluations using an inclusivity lens for performance measurement. Beginning with the mandate for inclusion, Jasmina shared how evaluating services intended to provide linguistically and culturally-appropriate services included carrying out an evaluability assessment, developing a pathway to understand the client experience, facilitating collaborative dialogue, and creating social inclusion dashboards.

I started by emphasizing that diversity can be both an aspirational and a troubling concept depending on how it is framed. I defined diversity as the acknowledgement that people in our communities have multiple identities and connections to varied communities. At the same time, our cultural context and history of colonization informs what is considered the norm, and diversity doesn’t mean that all people are treated the same in the various systems of our government and culture.

I shared some tips and tools for addressing diversity within evaluation. I discussed three main areas for considering diversity: 1. You and your team (do you have the skills and commitment to work with diverse people?), 2. Your evaluation (do you have a process that engages diverse people at every stage, from setting evaluation goals to defining and analyzing data, and creating meaningful reports for different audiences?), and 3. Your community (How do you evaluate projects and programs that have an explicit diversity-related goal?)

Independent Evaluator Carolyn Camman closed, noting that complexity demands more of us as evaluators; we need to consider how to be adaptive and embrace emergent learning.

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