Heeding the Sound of ?Missing Voices? (Jun 02)

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How do we know that our work has integrity?

I don’t know about you but I struggle with this question a lot. Even when a project or program looks like it is succeeding, there’s always a next set of questions to ask about it.

I remember, for instance, when I was directing a battered women’s program in an area that had a large Native American population. Our program was active and always at capacity. We had a great reputation with local funders and a strong working relationship with the court, police department and other domestic violence partners. We had a large active base of volunteers and wonderful ongoing relationships with local women who had used our services . . . mostly.

We did not have these kinds of relationships with Native American women, however — they approached us in numbers that were proportionately much lower than their presence in the general population, and they tended to stay just for a night or two. Within the organization there were a lot of explanations for this. I won’t bother to repeat them but suffice it to say that they were completely inaccurate. We decided to find out what was really going on and asked the local Native American Community Center to do an audit.

Let’s just say that, in terms of cultural competence, we were incompetent in just about every category of interaction: our counseling style with these women, the set up of the shelter, our rules for residents, our interactions with their children — you name it. We had a huge amount of work to do to become even tolerable, let alone welcoming.

I tell this story to set up the attached article by Ricardo Millett, one of our favorite thinkers on evaluation. He shares some of his experiences and thinking on the importance of considering diversity when doing evaluation. As always, we find his writing rich with lessons. This topic also heralds the summer issue, the topic of which is Race and Power. More about this in the next e-Newsletter but this is an issue that you won’t want to miss.  

Hope your summer is going well and that you have some rest and relaxation planned. The world is so full of a number of things….