For many out-of-school time professionals, evaluation feels separate from the heart of the program. Data collection is an administrative chore like refilling paper in the copier: necessary, but not all that meaningful. This is, in part, because data and evaluation are often described as value-neutral, which doesn’t connect very well with people and programs who are values-driven. Who wants to put time and effort into something that isn’t aligned with your purpose?
By acknowledging that values inform nearly every aspect of evaluation, and by making program evaluation more equity-focused, we can transform it from a chore to a mission-critical contributor to learning and improvement.
Fortunately, there are terrific resources available to help out-of-school time professionals (and their evaluators!) to more intentionally incorporate equity-based values into their evaluations. A few of my favorites:
Re-center evaluation around values
Use the Equitable Evaluation Principles to jumpstart a conversation about how data and evaluation are thought of and used in your organization.
The Equitable Evaluation Initiative, which created the Principles, has helpful resources to help you make the case for equity-centered evaluation in your organization. They are big-picture thinkers who will help you to re-center how you envision the purpose and goals of evaluation in the first place.
Re-think data and analysis
We All Count provides practical advice about how to collect and analyze data in ways that promote equity and reduce unintentional bias.
They are funny and to-the-point with their advice, with posts with titles like, “How to make your evaluation questions less accidentally racist.” Their eye-opening perspective will help you to see your “neutral” data in a different way.
Their blog, newsletter, and select resources are free; they offer trainings for a fee.
Revamp forms and surveys
The way that many forms and surveys are written communicate an exclusionary message to community members, which contradicts the values of the organization itself.
Fortunately, there are straightforward things that programs can do to make their forms and surveys more inclusive, including removing the word “other” from option choices, taking the language and literacy of respondents into account, and collecting only the most essential information. Our coffee break webinar and tip sheet has more.
Excited to incorporate values into your evaluation, but not sure where to start?
The self-assessment in this guide from Public Policy Associates will show you where your current evaluation practices already reflect equity-centered values, and where more work is needed.
For breakfast, I had corn flakes, facon, and grapes.