Grantmakers who have made a commitment to equity understand that this means incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into all facets of our work, including learning and evaluation. Our community is seeking to ask the right questions about equity, empower nonprofits and communities to define what success looks like, and ensure our practices as grantmakers (including evaluation) produce more just outcomes by helping nonprofits grow stronger and make faster progress.
The San Francisco Foundation is aggressively pursuing racial equity and economic inclusion for Bay Area residents. And because bias has been baked into our systems and assumptions, we have to critically examine all that we do, including how we evaluate our impact and effectiveness.
Equitable evaluation requires funders to understand the current and historical context of equity and social justice in communities where grants are made and the implications of this on outcomes. If approached comprehensively, it also works to mitigate the power imbalance in the funder-grantee relationship.
As Meyer’s commitment to equity deepens, we find ourselves exploring the challenges and opportunities inherent in evaluating the advancement of equitable outcomes, both our own and that of our nonprofit partners. Part of our goal in measuring progress is the extent to which our equity values embody how we do our work and how well we are following the guidance we ask others to follow. We also understand the importance of evaluating and learning in ways that are themselves truly grounded in equity. It’s a topic we look forward to exploring with other national leaders who share a commitment to equity.
An equity lens is imperative for responsible evaluation practice. Evaluation is a powerful tool for social change – it can influence decisions about what issues are addressed in a community, what strategies should be implemented, who can and should be involved, and to what degree. Unless issues of power, privilege, and difference are more systematically integrated into evaluation practice and products, the field risks deepening and perpetuating the injustices facing communities. These injustices are what brought many of us to social change work in the first place.
Just as evaluation helps philanthropy answer questions about impact, it can also help us examine our own role in inadvertently contributing to inequality. Evaluators from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, representing diverse constituencies, are critical to pushing the field of philanthropy to question our assumptions and work to mitigate inherent power imbalances.
Living Cities seeks to close the racial wealth gap so that all people in US cities are economically secure and building wealth. While aspirational, if we don’t apply an equitable evaluative lens to our processes, policies, products, performance, and partnerships, we will be complicit in perpetuating structural racism and inequitable outcomes for people. Equitable evaluation is imperative as it enables us to better understand the needs of communities, to develop culturally responsive solutions, and ultimately to get better results for low-income people and people of color, faster.
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