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  • Writer's pictureEquitable Evaluation Initiative

EEF Expansion: Origin & Methodology

EEI and the practice of the EEF acknowledge the historical and post-positivist evaluation norms that tend to preference and privilege a singular—and often simplified—type of truth, knowing, and evidence. The EEF shows the possibility of prioritizing high-quality design and methods of evaluation that are both valuable to the end user and in service of strategy. In doing so, ways of knowing, data gathering, and sense-making are expanded and new definitions of validity, rigor, and objectivity that acknowledge multiplicities, different truths, and complexities are embraced.


EEI’s multimodal methods approach is rooted in the adoption and application of these 21st century definitions, which supports our practice of the EEF and the advancement of the EEF Principles. The ideas and frames that inform the Equitable Evaluation Framework™ (EEF) predate the Equitable Evaluation Initiative (EEI). Exploration, experimentation, and evolution along the way includes a mix of approaches and avenues, notably fifteen 4-6 month Making the Case Collaboratories (228 organizations, 537 participants), six Classes (2-year experience arc) of Foundation EEF Practice Partners/Practitioners (44 foundations, 180 participants), a Consultant pilot (9 entities, 12 participants) and a Nonprofit/Public Sector pilot (8 organizations, 40 participants).


Early Grounding


The first expression of the EEF emerged through the article What’s Race Got to Do With It? Equity and Philanthropic Practice, evolving from the Equitable Evaluation project and the EEF Framing Paper. In 2018, in conversation with very early Practice Partners (individuals representing foundations), the EEF first expanded and was shared through Shifting the Evaluation Paradigm: The Equitable Evaluation Framework, published in partnership with Grantmakers For Effective Organizations in 2019. Raising the Bar—Integrating Cultural Competency and Equity: Equitable Evaluation (Dean-Coffey, Casey, & Caldwell, 2014) introduced the term “equitable evaluation” to U.S. philanthropy.


Emergency Relational Evaluation, Research, & Learning Design


EEI is in development* of an emerging relational evaluation, research, and learning design which shifts away from the conventional and transactional nature of evaluation and research relationships, methods, and approaches toward relationship, trust, reciprocity, and respect, while noticing and learning alongside. Real-time learning supports ongoing practice of the EEF. Relational evaluation, research, and learning design allows space and time for meaning-making and learning to emerge organically. It aligns or realigns methods or approaches that support deeper engagement and connection to noticings and surfacings as the EEF unfolds.


EEI methods incorporate elements of embodied inquiry, which encourages a myriad of approaches and lenses to generate data and process embodied lived experiences and expertise. Embodied Inquiry** is guided by three foundational principles: the first sets out the what; the second answers why; and the third expresses the how. Together, they support the way in which the methods are thought about and carried out. The practice of the EEF acknowledges that who we are in this work matters (being), which informs and shifts how we think about, construct, and engage with evaluative practice (thinking), which allows for the alignment in the practice (doing). EEI employs a process of reflection, reflexion, and realignments.


The EEF Practice: Conversation, Practice, Community


The EEF Practice Partner experience has three organizing and emerging pillars: conversation, practice, community. These support and serve as through-lines across the EEF Practice Partner/Practitioner spaces and places held by EEI. The methods and modalities intentionally weave and thread within, between, and among these. This includes embodied inquiry, which continually encourages, models, and asks, “What does this look like, sound like, feel like, then do?” The emergent relational design allows for flexibility and recalibration and accommodates organic growth. It supports a living expression of the EEF that evolves alongside those in the practice.


Data Generation & Meaning


A variety of modalities—such as podcasts, blogs, poetry, video, and more—are offered to inform conversation and support different ways of knowing and expression. From these diverse and unique conversations, reflections, noticings, and surfacings reveal ideas and relationships among and between concepts and the identified EEF elements: Orthodoxies, Mindsets, Tensions, and Sticking Points.


Expanded Ways of Knowing


EEI invites exploration of other ways of knowing: sense perception, intuition, emotion, memory, reason, imagination, and faith.*** The EEF acknowledges and expands multiple and interdependent ways of knowing. Since 2020, EEI has had a Resident Artist (and engages with additional artists) to craft graphic recordings, animated video, and other visual iconography to support EEI communications and the practice of EEF. Art is an ancient and honored way of knowing.


Bloom’s Taxonomy**** invites exploration of learning from multiple levels: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Conventional ways of knowing exclude tradition, superstition, storytelling, and emotion, which offer important dimensions of the learning process.***** EEI’s intention, use, and modeling of different forms of experiences, expressions, and examples of ways in which we are noticing and surfacing the practice of the EEF is guided by these theoretical underpinnings. It is further informed and influenced by Paulo Freire’s****** seminal work on adult learning which invites adults to act and assert themselves as agents of change. This has relevance to creating a new paradigm around knowledge—which evaluation is a part of or entry to—and about the “to what end”—be it equity, liberation, justice, and/or freedom.



* Coné, Marcia and Helstowski, Linda W. (2023). In Development.

** Leigh, Jennifer and Brown, Nicole. (2021). Embodied Inquiry: Research Methods. Bloomsbury.

*** Soane Perry, Elissa and Couchois Duncan, Aja. (2017) “Multiple Ways of Knowing: Expanding What We Know.” Nonprofit Quarterly. nonprofitquarterly.org/multiple-ways-knowing-expanding-know/

**** Lorin W. Anderson and David R. Krathwohl. (2000). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing; a

Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Pearson.

***** Lindsay, James. (2020). “Ways of Knowing,” New Discourses. newdiscourses.com/tftw-ways-of-knowing/

****** Freire, Paulo. (1973). Education for Critical Consciousness. New York: Seabury Press.

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