Reflecting on equitable and anti-racist evaluation practice for the youth sector
In late 2020, the Centre for Youth Impact commissioned Sarah-Jane Danchie, Director at The Social Investment Consultancy (TSIC) Africa, to explore and draw together resources focused on equitable and anti-racist evaluation, and frame some priority questions to guide our future work. Here, Sarah-Jane shares some of her reflections:
Three events that both marked and marred 2020 – COVID-19, the climate crisis and police brutality towards Black and minoritised communities – brought disproportionate and adverse living standards for Black, indigenous and people of colour into focus. By June 2020, these events and the growing Black Lives Matter movement triggered a reckoning for almost every industry, who in turn pledged to adopt proactive policies to mitigate against racial injustice, bias, systemic racism, and the oppression of marginalised groups.
Anti-racism is usually structured around conscious efforts and deliberate actions to provide equitable opportunities for all people on an individual and systemic level. Evaluation, research and philanthropy are fundamental in enabling this across the informal and non-formal youth sector. Not only do they have the potential to catalyse and drive action; they also have the potential to undermine, limit and cause harm.
This illustration demonstrates how anti-racism approaches require action on four levels. The first is at the individual level: this requires a heightened level of self-awareness that is an acceptance and recognition that society and systems have been racist and that there are implicit biases. Therefore, what role can you play as a practitioner to actively eliminate and mitigate it?
At the interpersonal level, how we interact is critical. At the institutional or organisational level, the important questions to address are how evaluation, research or funding policies may be causing harm. How can organisations use data and evidence to dismantle oppressive systems and build more equitable and just provision and communities? At the systemic level, evaluators, funders and researchers need to address how the profession embodies the values that it espouses or seeks to promote systems change. How is the profession actively taking steps to shift rather than sustain the status quo?
There is an emergent movement committed to strengthening anti-racist approaches to evaluation in the UK social sector, though there has been limited work to date on particular ‘sub-sectors’, including youth work and out of school provision for young people. It is clear the importance of focusing on anti-racist and equitable research approaches are critical in order to address the growing inequality faced by young people in the UK.
Though we shouldn’t have required a reminder, 2020 demonstrated the urgency of these new approaches. For the evaluation and research community, the key questions for organisations and institutions are:
- How can organisations use data and evidence to dismantle oppressive systems and build more equitable and just provision and communities?
- How are evaluation practices and approaches causing harm?
- How does the evaluation profession embody the values that it espouses or seeks to promote?
- How is the evaluation profession actively taking steps to advance its anti-racist practice?
- What commitments have been made for learning at both a sector and organisational level?
In addition, initiatives and platforms are needed to support Black and Asian evaluators, and evaluators from other minority ethnic communities, and to inform and educate white evaluators to better understand the heritage and voices of minoritised communities – this is pivotal in providing the foundation for anti-racist approaches.
The Centre for Youth Impact, alongside other like-minded organisations, can provide a safe space for dialogue and sharing of experience. The Centre and its partners could also showcase and highlight the work of evaluators of colour, as well as taking active steps to diversify the evaluation profession.
Sarah-Jane and colleagues from TSIC and the Charities Evaluation Working Group (ChEW) will be leading a session on anti-racist evaluation at the forthcoming CYPNow Evidence, Evaluation & Impact Conference
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