Funders and the wider sector must take equitable approaches to their evaluation processes in order to shape a fairer sector, research from a charity think tank has argued.
The paper, Equitable Evaluation, from New Philanthropy Capital, challenges funders and the wider sector to consider who makes decisions when determining whether a given investment or programme is worth the cost and whether it is meeting its intended goals.
It invites funders to consider the voices and knowledge that are valued in the process, and the purpose that the evaluation serves.
The paper says that applying an equity lens to evaluation practices can highlight dynamics that have historically undervalued the knowledge, expertise and experiences of evaluation participants and stakeholders, particularly people from marginalised communities.
It recommends that funders approach evaluation in new ways, such as exploring how the characteristics and experiences of decision-makers could have an impact on how data is interpreted.
If an evaluation team lacks the ‘cultural competence’ to conduct an evaluation that would pick up on contextual nuances and produce meaningful results for participants, funders should consider partnering with people who could do so, the report says.
It also suggests that funders should examine structural inequality through evaluation strategies, be transparent about how they influence evaluation and interrogate their assumptions about evaluation methods.
The report says: “Equitable evaluation supports transparency and critical examination about these choices and perspectives. Overall, the principles of equitable evaluation can help the social sector to address blind spots, improving inclusivity and the comprehensiveness of data produced by evaluations.”
Researchers Amina Ali and Rosie Mcleod said the paper was for all funders in the social sector that have a commitment to tackling inequity through the work they support.
“It speaks to funders because, as they shape the terms for assessment, changes in their practices are crucial. However, this paper is also relevant to the wider evaluation ecosystem, which includes evaluators, community stakeholders, professional networks and firms,” the report authors said.
“We believe that the approaches and principles described here are useful for charities, and other social sector organisations, who have a social justice and equity ethos.”