AEA Conference Highlights Importance of Equity in Evaluation
November 29, 2017
By Nishi Moonka
As a consulting firm that strives for improvement by promoting continuous learning with our clients, it is critical for us to walk the talk. Earlier this month, RDA had the opportunity to attend and present at the American Evaluation Association Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. I had the privilege of presenting with Corey Newhouse and Jana Sharp, founders of Public Profit and Sharp Insight respectively, on organizational management best practices. My portion of the session, entitled “Other People are Smart, Too,” focused on the importance of organizational health and how to achieve it.
The theme this year was From Learning to Action and explored ways in which the evaluator community could learn from evaluation to create better practices and outcomes. While I have pages and pages of notes from the valuable conference sessions and conversations I had over meals with colleagues, there was one thing that really resonated with me. This key takeaway was that as evaluators, we must all do better at integrating an equity lens when designing and evaluating programs and policies. We need to consistently recognize the upstream social and environmental barriers that provide the context for the outcomes we evaluate to provide more comprehensive and impactful recommendations.
While this is something that has been part of RDA’s mission for the past 33 years, the lesson I am holding onto is to do better, try harder, and really push ourselves that much more. Discerning institutionalized inequity can be challenging, messy, painful and political, but good decision-making and positive change require it. To do so, we must be willing to look at our own practices, engage in honest and open self-reflection, and be brave enough to engage in the conversation. This has always been important but is especially critical right now and we must dedicate the time, effort, commitment, and energy. This is the critical role that we, as evaluators, need to play.
One Small Planet
It is impossible to look back over the events of the past year and not viscerally feel the interconnectedness between ourselves, our families, our communities, and the rest of the world. The struggles of other countries, even other states, that once felt like distant concerns confined to the evening news now take on a different meaning. The pandemic and its economic devastation; the urgent cries for racial justice; the ever-increasing threat of wildfires, hurricanes, and other climate-change-driven disasters: these challenges belong to all of us.
Moving from Crisis to Chronic
Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are still operating in crisis mode. We are exhausted, and the items we put on the shelf are starting to stack up. It’s time to revisit our triage plans, no matter how planful or ad hoc, and re-evaluate our priorities and resources.