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Beyond Rigor: Building Philanthropy’s Equitable Evaluation Infrastructure

Thursday, August 1, 2019

By Jo Christine Miles, Public Policy Fellow, Philanthropy New York

Should the “rigor” yardstick, used in traditional evaluation practice, be used to assess an equity-focused mission? Does centering questions of validity, objectivity, and appropriateness advance equity? A growing group of funders and evaluators would answer “no” to both questions.

Traditional evaluation practices center dated ideas of validity, rigor, and appropriateness thereby concretizing the very inequities, power dynamics, and biases many justice-oriented foundations seek to undo. Acknowledging the misalignment, some foundations and evaluators have pushed to shift the evaluation paradigm so that it becomes a tool for and of equity for those that have made equity their mission. The new paradigm – coined equitable evaluation (EE) – imbues the evaluation process with equity, makes a foundation’s values explicit, and asks questions that lead to deeper reflection and insight rather than mere data collection. Several foundations are supporting the development of the paradigm and various professionals, evaluators, and foundations are prototyping and developing the new frame through specific evaluation projects.

In response to member demand for additional resources and tools to support their missions, NCG is joining forces with several other philanthropy serving organizations to advance the learning and practice of equitable evaluation. The group, called Associations Advancing Equitable Evaluation Practices (AAEEP), has issued a statement setting forth our commitment to providing EE resources and learning to support the important equity-focused work to which many of our members are already committed and actively funding.

AAEEP members will introduce our members to the latest research and information about equitable evaluation. We will provide our members with EEI informed content, and serve as resources within our respective regions to support and engage funders embarking upon an equitable evaluation journey. Our shared commitment and collaboration will advance equitable evaluation by:

  • Building the field. By sharing EEI resources and collaboratively developing equitable evaluation curriculum, we will add to the cadre of early adopters of equitable evaluation principles, and increase the demand for more evaluators committed to designing equitable evaluative processes.
  • Strengthening ties and fostering cooperation among funders.  Many grantmakers are addressing complex issues of inequality through collaborative funding programs and collective impact frameworks. Sector-wide equitable evaluation principles will support our members’ efforts by fostering alignment around defining success and measuring impact.
  • Reduce overlap and redundant efforts. Our effort will create a space for grantmaking staff across several regions to learn, analyze, and tweak their evaluative processes together, enhancing grantmakers’ ability to achieve alignment around intended impact and impact measurement.

Interested in learning more? AAEEP will co-host a webinar on September 18, 2019 at 11:00 am (PST), facilitated by experts from EEI to introduce EE to members new to the practice and to provide details on how the practice is developing for those who already are or are interested in applying EE to their work.


This blog was originally published by Jo Christine Miles, Public Policy Fellow, Philanthropy New York.

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