To DO the work…

Last month, Deven shared some critical reflections on how he uses his own social capital in this work. We capped off our March reflective practice by chatting amongst ourselves in our podcast about our social capital in this space (Rad-space 😊) and what it means to be inclusive. A note: We could do better.

What stands out to me is really that the work is never over. We relearn this all the time. We, as facilitators of this space, are fallible, and will make mistakes. We already know this. We say we’re radically imagining, but what does that really mean? What is it to really be radical… in this system we’re in?

This brings me to: What does it mean to create a safe… intentional… radical, space?

It seems to me, a safe space is a space in which we can fail, even with the best intentions. And we learn from that failure. The process of radically imagining, as well as the process of inclusion, is an ongoing practice of transforming our space as a result of truly hearing those we are interacting with.

As an evaluator, the struggle has seemed to me to be the unnecessary dichotomizing (and really, pitting “against” each other) of Theory and Practice, Evaluation and Program PlanningQuantitative and QualitativeIndividual versus Collective. Nodding to February’s Rad conversation, it is the liminal space where the work gets done.

An example is the push toward measurement of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work with projects and stakeholders. What does it mean to be diverse? What would we measure? What does “fair” mean, when it comes to equity? What is the appropriate measure for “fairness”? And what does it mean to create an inclusive environment? How do we truly understand belonging, especially when often our programs are perpetuating systems of inequity and oppression? The measuring part is about learning and seeing how well you’re trying. Taking the space to define that trying is part of telling the story, “evaluating” your program.

I honestly believe that activities need to be defined before the metrics are set for those activities. To operationalize DEI in your program/initiative/project entails actually “doing the work.” The activities determine the metrics. And they’re contextual. If I go into a program with my preconceived metrics for evaluating DEI, then I am likely setting you, the client, up for failure. Similarly, going to a DEI training in your organization is only as good as the resulting action. To be truly engaged in this work is to see it as everchanging, asking hard questions, and authentically engaging in the structural and systemic conversation of how we operate in society.

“Doing inclusion well” requires active engagement in the work, listening, and pivoting accordingly. The doing is the evidence. The resulting action.

Two questions for our readers…

  1. What have been your successes… and failures… in measuring equity and inclusion?
  2. What is the role of evaluation in navigating equitable and inclusive programming?

– Tiffany Smith, April 1, 2021

3 thoughts on “To DO the work…

  1. Curious data-wrangling – ngrams demonstrates some interesting positionality of the terms “diversity, equity, inclusion” and I added “intersectionality” in there to see how it matched up. I’m not sure what to make of it, although it is interesting that starting in 2013 there seemed to be a shift when equity became less prominent within literature and was overshadowed by diversity. https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=Diversity%2CEquity%2CInclusion%2Cintersectionality&year_start=1800&year_end=2019&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2CDiversity%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2CEquity%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2CInclusion%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cintersectionality%3B%2Cc0

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, and to the questions:
      1) I think it is a success any time I think beyond the obvious and consider invisible marginalization and unheard voices within a certain body of analysis. Failures to me have more to do with times I listen to other’s experiences and recognize that I had not noticed a dynamic of marginalization due to my privilege.
      2) I think the role of evaluation is mercurial as it often depends on several layerings of stakeholder and funder dynamics. If an evaluator chooses to stay within the status quo, their methods of navigating equitable and inclusive programming will be much different than if an evaluator chooses to be subversive. I personally would like to see the development of a “humanization evaluation” approach wherein factors of analysis are attached to more of a process evaluation where systems are observed and noted for places they work toward human rights and in places where they miss opportunities to humanize or are conducting practices that are dehumanizing in some fashion – ultimately with the goal of improving various programming toward greater equity and value for marginalized stakeholders.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah Tiffany this is so helpful and such an important reminder! We can’t evaluate what we aren’t DOING. Many of us are looking for that magic bullet of proof – I love your words about the measuring being focused on the effort itself. As an evaluator I am often asked “what are good metrics to use?” to measure something, and I spend a lot of my time going back into program planning, defining activities, and deriving measurement from there. You are reminding us that the same applies to DEI efforts and results.

    Liked by 1 person

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