Over the prior decade or more, the evaluation profession has made great strides around issues of diversity. From programs such as the Graduate Education Diversity Initiative sponsored by the American Evaluation Association to its cultural competence statement to the founding of CREA to each of the many other domestic and international achievements on issues of diversity and inclusion, our professional evaluation community continues to step in the right direction. Our progress, however, invites worry, as we too often hear satisfaction simply with netting more evaluators from under-represented groups within our junior ranks, a worthwhile achievement but one which falls short of the larger goal of attacking longstanding patterns of segregation in theory development, scholarship, leadership, and practice.
Our fondest hope as we continue to address critical issues on diversity is that we remain vigilant we are not advocating diversity for diversity’s sake. We pursue diversity because we strive to create a socially just profession in which evaluators from traditionally under-represented and disenfranchised backgrounds enjoy the supports, status, recognition, opportunities, and depth of professional connections other members of the profession have long had the privilege to take for granted. With this expanded participation in evaluation, we also seek a broadened base of thought about how evaluation work is accomplished, and the nature of its impact on all communities. Diversity and inclusion are not the same things. We can be diverse without creating inclusivity and without meaningful and enduring change in how our profession and its primary institutions function. That is not the future professional community to which we aspire.
Not all contexts are created equal within professional associations or outside them when it comes to re-creating evaluation as a profession characterized by heterogeneous professional networks and inclusive leadership at every career stage and in every corner. An emergent line of research in community psychology points to a troubling paradox: diversity often comes at the expense of sense of community and belonging. Broader access to the profession alone does not provide for the meaningful integration of different values, perspectives, and priorities that bridge the spaces and structures of practice to facilitate deep connections among all practitioners and theorists. When we fail to nurture inclusivity, justice, and the honoring of values and multiple perspectives explicitly as part of diversity efforts, the potential is there to undermine the truly inclusive community we seek. Advancing diversity as a matter of justice requires we focus on meaningful inclusion across the full spectrum of professional practice.
Melvin Hall is a professor of Educational Psychology at Northern Arizona University.
Robin Miller is a professor of Psychology at Michigan State University.