“The experience was meaningful for many reasons, primarily because everyone’s collective spirit of support and engagement made the session feel like community.” – Dr. Kimberly Harris (Current LEEAD Scholar)
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a network that is informative and supportive.” – Dr. Keneshia Bryant (LEEAD Cohort 1 Alum)
“The presentations and discussions showed me that it was possible to be flexible during the time of COVID-19 and still demonstrate equitable evaluation practices.” – Dr. Chandria Jones (LEEAD Cohort 2 Alum)
In May and June, the ETB Team sponsored a 3-part series of conversations offered to members of the Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) community and the Advancing Cuturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network. The intent of the learning series was to support evaluators as they found themselves shifting culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE) evaluation activities to a virtual environment. These conversations were facilitated by LEEAD Alumni- Dr. Kimberly Harris, Dr. Keneshia Bryant, and Dr. Chandria Jones – and supported by ACE Evaluation Network Members- Carlos Romero and Nicole Clark. They focused on 1) informed consent and recruitment, 2) data collection, and 3) sense-making. We asked each facilitator to share a short reflection at the conclusion of their session.
Informed Consent and Recruitment
I facilitated the first session in the Adapting CREE While Social Distancing learning series. I was excited to collaborate to put on this series of webinars because, like all evaluators and the community members with whom we partner, COVID-19 has impacted our professional careers and our personal lives in ways that make it necessary for us to be responsive to the new landscape it is shaping. I presented on the topic, “Informed Consent and Recruitment”, a topic made even more timely because at that particular moment, I was on-boarding both a research and an evaluation project that were framed in CREE, and that were both initially designed to be conducted primarily face to face. So, in designing the presentation, I regarded it as an opportunity to engage in deep and meaningful thought partnership with the ETB community in ways that could yield insights for my modified research and evaluation design. Happily, I can say I experienced that, and so much more. The participants showed up with a spirit of support, collaboration, and a willingness to be open to interrogate questions with me. We had a full hour of sharing lessons learned, thoughtful critique, and lifting up tools and experiences that could help me and other participating ETB community members navigate this novel terrain. The experience was meaningful for many reasons, primarily because everyone’s collective spirit of support and engagement made the session feel like community.
The opportunity to lead the discussion of data collection in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic was an enlightening experience in regard to the existing technologies available to support evaluation. My previous experiences with data collection have largely taken place in-person and with limited use of technology. The session revealed to me opportunities that I would have never explored if social distancing was not a necessity. One of the participants highlighted the need for on-line facilitation skill training. There is definitely a different set of skills needed to engage and elicit information on an online platform versus in person. This is a valuable training opportunity that I am going to incorporate into my current work. In addition to the training, there was discussion about various apps and other tools that can support data collection while socially distancing. I plan to explore these options and incorporate them into my evaluation work as well. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a network that is informative and supportive.
Analysis and Sense-making
As evaluators working during the time of COVID-19, the terms “pivot” and “flexibility” have become a regular part of our daily conversations. Before participating in the Adapting CREE in the Time of Social Distancing learning series on analysis and sensemaking, I struggled with ideas on how I was going to “pivot” to using an online environment to authentically engage stakeholders in reviewing and interpreting data. Fortunately, the excellent examples provided by my co-facilitators and the engaging dialogue with participants during the webinar provided me with the spark of inspiration that I needed. I came away from the webinar with strategies for increasing stakeholders’ capacity to understand and use data while uplifting their voices and affirming their lived experiences all in a virtual environment. The presentations and discussions showed me that it was possible to be flexible during the time of COVID-19 and still demonstrate equitable evaluation practices.
A heartfelt thank you goes out to all participants and Advancing Culturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network Members, Nicole Clark and Carlos Romero for sharing your wisdom and experiences.
“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” – James Lane Allen
I do not think I did much differently or innovative due to COVID-19, but I think the shift I had to make to accommodate the crisis (i.e. facilitating a meeting to review data over Zoom) revealed and accentuated some of the things I was already doing that make for effective equitable evaluation practice. My personal takeaway around sense-making is to be more mindful of the extent to which I am truly engaging stakeholders in interpreting data versus the times I am summarizing and filtering it for them. There are important implications for whether I am reflecting their perspective versus my perspective of their perspective.