Advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a major priority for many nonprofit leaders this year. But it’s easy to fall short when moving from intention to application. To ensure success, integrate DEI with existing organizational processes like evaluation. 

A DEI lens matters for evaluation because it allows you to involve more people and more perspectives to improve the quality of your project.  

The Evaluation Cycle 

A DEI lens can be applied to each component of the Evaluation Cycle. 

Assess readiness 

Consider if your organization’s evaluation system is DEI-ready. Make a business case connected to a moral or social cause that is important to your mission; or describe the state of the economy, the surrounding marketplace, or a set of outcomes your organization is aiming to achieve. How does DEI improve evaluation effectiveness and efficiency, given these contexts?  

Then, ensure you have leadership commitment. DEI is all about gathering diverse perspectives and confronting white dominant culture. Is your senior leadership and Board of Directors ready to amplify voices typically ignored and share or cede power to others?

Develop your evaluation question. 

The role of the evaluator is changing. Traditionally, evaluators ran the show when it came to articulating the purpose of evaluation. When using a DEI lens, however, evaluators advocate for a more collaborative approach. The more diverse stakeholders you involve from the start, the more accurately you can articulate if the evaluation is formative, process-based, or impact-based—and the final question it will answer. 

Determine your theory of change, outcomes, and logic model. 

Welcoming a diversity of perspectives continues throughout the evaluation process. As evaluators explore theory of change, outcomes, and the logic model, they can balance biases by sharing power. This means collaborating with senior leaders and, especially, frontline staff. Those employees who are closest to the stakeholder you are trying to impact can provide the most insightful perspectives, which drive a more purposeful and better executed evaluation.  

Determine your measurement tools. 

Even the most objective survey design falls prey to bias. Think through the following when choosing your measurement tools: 

  • Who is the interviewer and what are their possible blind spots?  
  • What is the interviewee’s perspective of the interviewer? 
  • Are the tool’s questions worded appropriately for the audience? 

Work with people who have multiple perspectives to design measurement tools. Think about your population as you write the demographic questions. And before you administer surveys, launch interviews, or conduct focus groups, provide an introduction that explains how you are using the data. Create a safe environment where people feel comfortable engaging in candid dialogue. 

Collect data. 

Sampling is the most important DEI consideration at this stage of evaluation. Determine the sampling strategy that will help you get hard-to-reach minority populations to ensure they are well-represented in the data. Consider oversampling for groups where you think there might be disparities in impact. This tactic rarely produces a sample “surplus”; rather, it provides a better representation of the true sample demographic.    

Analyze data. 

DEI evaluation prioritizes meaningful significance above statistical significance. This means that instead of throwing out a sample size because it’s too small, analyze it for information that might be interesting to further investigate. Be thoughtful about how you look at your data and how you look at your demographics. For example, analyzing data for simplistic categories like People of Color and White respondents does not provide enough nuance or insight.  

Determine impact and implications for the future. 

Conducting this final evaluation stage with equity and inclusivity is about acting on all data collected. If you cannot act on it, don’t collect it. Likewise, do not report any data that will not lead to action. The purpose of evaluation is to help the community you are serving in a meaningful way. Explain the data results to your audiences to honor their time, and if you collected data from vulnerable populations, share it with them. Finally, avoid re-identification of participants in a small sample size. 

Approaching evaluation with a DEI lens

Approaching evaluation with a DEI lens is powerful because it puts action to an organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. It is a practical way to improve both the state of evaluation and DEI in your company.  

Brighter Strategies employs a DEI lens with our work and identifies the appropriate resources that support equitable and inclusive workplace practices. Our goal is to help you create an equitable, efficient, motivational work environment; increase productivity; and ultimately drive your organization towards growth and success. Contact us today to learn more. 

Conducting Evaluation with a DEI Lens

Evaluation is not always the objective, fact-based process we think it is. Our own biases and blind spots can affect the outcome of an evaluation process. That’s why it’s important to conduct evaluation using a lens focused around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).