• Jara Dean-Coffey, MPH

Tension 4 - Technical Approaches vs Creating Conditions for Change

Originally published on equitableeval.org on July 14, 2020

 

In my last post, I wrote about Tension 3 – Individuals vs Organizations vs Systems as part of a series of five tensions that I/we are struggling with as the Equitable Evaluation Initiative unfolds. In this post, I want to explore the tension between supporting the work of others vs creating the conditions for new mindsets, strategies and tools.


Tension 4: Technical Approaches vs. Creating Conditions for Change


When I first conceptualized this series, I realized I defaulted to the how too quickly. We know, and have all borne witness to, how swiftly the move to technocratic and tactical fixes can happen without fundamental changes in what, whom, and how we value. What’s the balance to strike and what and how should that be determined? And by whom?

We at EEI have taken a position that before we move to method (as an expression of methodology) we must stop, look around, and check our assumptions, know our history, understand deeply our context and bring our humanity and curiosity to evaluative work. Philanthropy more than any other sector is uniquely positioned to be different and do differently. The other actors in the ecosystem take their cues (and monies) and will adjust accordingly, for better or worse (e.g., Eyes Wide Open, Response to Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World).


As the EEI team evolves through strategy execution and ever-changing context, the following can be said:

  • We are in the unknown driven by what we hold as core, hopeful about where we want to be, and comfortable with exploring multiple hows.

  • We deliberately reject the notion that as consultants we are experts (the most important ones) and have the answers. There is collective and different expertise needed to get to someplace new.

  • We seek partnership on multiple levels - individual, organizational and systemic. The innovation, prototyping and testing is happening in the field.

  • We know that we (EEI) are but a piece of the puzzle and that others have started this work and have said many of the same things we are saying.

  • We are temporary. We aspire not for perpetuity but obsolescence.

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