Incorporating culturally responsive and equity-focused evaluation methods is key to ensuring that evaluation findings are effective and useful, especially when working with vulnerable communities. At Harder+Company, we support equity-focused evaluation methods by:
- Recruiting and promoting a diverse team of researchers who bring a variety of personal and professional experiences to our work.
- Building our team’s capacity to effectively incorporate culturally responsive methods into our work.
- Supporting programs designed to build the diversity of the broader evaluation field.
Because of our commitment to equity-focused evaluation, we jumped at the opportunity to support the inaugural session of Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD), sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The LEEAD program engages mid-career scholars from diverse backgrounds in order to diversify leadership in the evaluation field. Harder+Company is one of the eight organizations who hosted LEEAD scholars, alongside Child Trends, American Institutes for Research, the University of Memphis, Mathematica Policy Research, ORS Impact, RAND Corporation and Urban Institute.
The LEEAD Structure
The LEEAD program consists of three essential components:
- A semester of online evaluation coursework to help scholars outside of the field acclimate to evaluation work, covering both methodology and management;
- Ongoing mentorship from established experts in evaluation; and
- A remote evaluation residency placement at a research organization, think tank, foundation or private firm.
In 2016 we worked with two LEEAD scholars:
- Victoria A. Anyikwa, Saint Leo University, Florida
- Juan Jose Bustamante, University of Arkansas
Reflecting On the First Year of LEEAD
Victoria and Juan Jose contributed to literature reviews, instrument design, and analysis for two of our client projects. We reflected on our experience with the first group of LEEAD scholars by interviewing the scholars and project teams to find out what each learned.
A few key points stood out:
- The remote residency is a novel element that allowed us to work with scholars who we would not have met otherwise. We found that video conferencing tools like Skype, HighFive and GoToMeeting were valuable ways to build relationships over long distances and make sure that everyone was in alignment about the work at hand. Our scholars said that using video helped them to feel that they were a part of the project team.
- Scholars learned to collaborate with our teams and our clients. Coming from an academic setting, the scholars were accustomed to setting their own research agenda, so reporting to a client was a different experience. As one of them noted, the project work was also more collaborative than in academia, which is often an individual, competitive pursuit.
- Evaluation is a very different approach from the academic research that many scholars are accustomed to. Thus, it is important for host sites to create safe opportunities for scholars to flex their newly developed evaluation muscle. This includes conversations about how to engage various stakeholders and developing products that address the needs of various audiences.
The second year of LEEAD starts this fall, and we look forward to meeting a new group of scholars and building on our experience.