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Building New Culturally Responsive Evaluators

Practically every professional industry realizes that cultural diversity can only be leveraged with cultural competence.  But, the reality is that not every industry is taking the necessary steps to create culturally competent professionals.  After reading an informative article about the American Evaluation Association, I am convinced that this group is launching cultural experts into our schools and organizations to help all of our communities prosper.

Organized as a collective case study, the authors interviewed six cohorts of program alumni who were all people of color looking to increase their success in the field of education evaluation.  The alumni named four key experiences that were critical to their leadership development that all industry trainers can adopt when planning cultural competency programs.  

  • Knowledge and skill development
  • Confidence and empowerment
  • Ownership and commitment
  • Sociopolitical acumen

Although the first three may be well documented in cultural competency trainings, the last element of sociopolitical acumen only occurs when people collaborate together for effective group learning.  The authors describe the pursuit of sociopolitical acumen as a process of extended networking, mutual collaboration on projects, and aligning with industry leaders as some of the most effective ways to increase their understanding with diverse communities.  This is where most leaders fail to bring lasting change to their organizations, when they keep the learning in the classroom and do not facilitate action beyond the organization’s walls.

Pursuing sociopolitical acumen demands active engagement.  It positions community members as knowledgeable, informed members of society that can best advocate for their community needs.  It requires educators to enter communities with the goal of building alliances with people who are most connected to the work at hand.  And it challenges the professional to consider herself as one who advocates for the people she is striving to serve.  

No matter what industry we prioritize in our day-to-day work, as leaders we must design opportunities for people around us to gain cultural competencies by working alongside people with diverse cultural backgrounds.  Let us make an effort to increase knowledge, build confidence, and develop commitment by prioritizing cultural responsiveness in all aspects of our personal and professional lives.  But at the same time, join together to initiate the active work of building sociopolitical acumen to apply these skills to real-life challenges of forming community partnerships built on trust and understanding.

Contact me if you would like to discuss how your organization is effectively leveraging culturally responsive skills in your industry.  To learn more about the AEA Graduate Education Diversity Internship program and its impacts on the alumni from past cohorts, consider reading the full article and grow your own knowledge about culturally responsive evaluation.  

Aponte-Soto, L., Ling Grant, D. S., Carter-Johnson, F., Colomer, S. E., Campbell, J. E., & An- derson, K. G. (2014). Championing culturally responsive leadership for evaluation practice. In P. M. Collins & R. Hopson (Eds.), Building a new generation of culturally responsive evaluators through AEA’s Graduate Education Diversity Internship program. New Directions for Evaluation, 143, 37–47.

Amaarah DeCuir