I’m (Libby) sitting down to write this post on the eve of #Eval21 – or rather Eval Reimagined – a Virtual Experience. There’s been a lot of reimagining these past 20 months. This year’s AEA conference theme asks us to Meet The Moment — a recognition of both our 35 years as an association and the fact that we are in a liminal space where we can never quite go back to how things were. I’ve been thinking about it all this way – who have we been? who are we now? and who do we want to be? — as a field, as an association, and as individual evaluators.
Over the past two months on the podcast we’ve been asking members of the Become team how they have been meeting the moment, specifically, what does it mean to be a culturally responsive evaluator in this time of sociopolitical upheaval and collective trauma? Dr. Dominica McBride talked with us about how culture shows up in our work and Dr. Gabriela Garcia talked with us about engaging communities through our work. To wrap up our three part series on this question, we will be talking with Lisa Sargent about the role of activism in our work.
It’s been a frequent refrain on this blog and on the podcast — evaluators are likely to frown on activism and advocacy. We’re supposed to objective, right? We’ve thrown that notion out long ago is this space, but it never escapes our awareness that it is still a common belief in the field.
I believe that our collective attachment to objectivity when it comes to activism is really a cover for our fear. We hide behind objectivity to stay out of conversations about racial justice and other justice issues. In my experience, most evaluators don’t have the racial literacy — political and historical context included — to engage in conversations about equity and racial justice. We have to change that if we want to stay relevant as a field.
I believe that disrupting the patterns of white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy, start with disrupting those patterns within. My activism starts with me. The more I have looked at how I have embodied oppressive behaviors, the more confident I feel in speaking out against injustice and orienting my life towards liberation.
No matter how tightly we continue to grasp at objectivity, evaluation is never neutral –if we aren’t actively working towards justice than we are working towards maintaining the status quo. Recognizing that fact might just be your first step towards embracing activism in your work. As Emergent Strategy teaches us “small is all” – what small step can you take towards justice?
Watch for our podcast later this month with Lisa Sargent who will reflect on these prompts with us. We would LOVE to hear your thoughts. Leave them here on the blog or tweet at us!
One thought on “Meeting the Moment”
I sometimes like to work on integrating reflective practice with the Buddhist concept of the “eternal moment,” which I describe as understanding the past is an illusion – it is not accessible, it does not exist, and it can be a trap to be stuck in thinking through and living within events and memories that are not a part of the present. In addition, the future is also an illusion – it never happens, as when we finally reach it, it is within a present moment. As such, it can also present as a trap – when you focus too much on what could happen, engage continually in planning for potential futures – you may miss opportunities to be mindful of current circumstances and events as they happen around you.
With this, the only thing that is real and true is the moment. Now. The present. And it is eternal. You never truly leave the moment, although it might seem like it. You can use the past as a guide – to reflect on things that worked to enhance and use their lessons. You can also use mistakes as a guide for improvement and change. You can use thoughts of the future to structure your current work and how it might fit at the moment. But since the present time is eternal, it necessitates a certain orientation to what is current, what is real in your life and perspective, and how can you continue to emerge and grow through the moment?