Importance of Culture in Evaluation: A Practical Guide for Evaluators

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Written for evaluators, this 17-page report is a very nice guide to communicating about culture in evaluation practices and may be used as a reference in data collection. The report emphasizes that cross-cultural competency is a necessary skill for evaluators to have. The author encourages evaluators to think of culture as a factor to be considered as much as sampling and measurement. In addition to the introduction and conclusion, the paper has three main sections: culture, social identity and group membership, and privilege and power. The first section speaks to the nature and definition of culture, and then gives specific advice to evaluators: identify and work with a bridge builder or cultural translator; listen, observe carefully, and ask respectfully; find out about previous experiences and lessons learned; don't assume that a particular concept or term means the same thing for everyone; consult expert translators and interpreters; and pilot test questions and instruments. The second section explains social identity, how it is formed, and how group dynamics play a part. The author then gives recommendations for evaluators in this realm: set aside time and resources to build trust and relationships, and to understand the cultural groups and cultural context; keep current on the dynamic context in which the evaluation is operating; and foster collaboration among all stakeholders, from the funder to the grantee representative, to encourage a broad and inclusive view. The final section on privilege and power encourages sensitivity to these sometimes overlooked issues. The author first asks evaluators to examine three aspects of the situation: personal relationships between the evaluator and those involved; consideration of contextual conditions and structural inequalities; and use of findings. Then, the report gives a final set of advice for evaluators in this regard: accept that there are status differences; demystify evaluation and use accessible language; create a comfortable setting for evaluation participants; partner with people with complimentary capacities; consider how certain terms and concepts can diminish or perpetuate existing prejudices; consider contextual conditions and structural inequities; and carefully examine the demographic variables used in the analysis. A number of sidebars throughout the report also emphasize important points and offer "questions for evaluators to ask" pertaining to each of the three main sections.

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