Right now, and in the very near future, program evaluators and evaluation researchers will be asked to explore many questions related to the current coronavirus pandemic. RFPs are already being prepared to study the effects of COVID-19 on specific populations and issue areas. We will be responsible for setting the evaluation agenda for years to come. If we harness the full potential of our influence and power, we can help secure a fundamentally different society, one that is firmly rooted in social justice and celebrates the full scope of our humanity and the sacredness of this planet.
While COVID-19 exacerbates the cruelties of our economic and political systems on a global scale, it also makes the environment ripe to continuously critique capitalist values and frameworks in both the programs we aim to understand and our evaluation practice. We ask: How can we work toward the liberation of ourselves and others if we are capitalist evaluators (un)intentionally serving a profit-over-people agenda? What would it look like to investigate unregulated capitalism in your next evaluation or explore data metrics related to the impact of privatization on the people you serve? What would it look like to build a responsive evaluation?
In solidarity, we hope to:
- Explore, unpack, and name the values you hold and bring with you to the evaluation project with regard to the size and scope of a democratic government, public goods, and unregulated capitalism. Part of this process is to explicate the logic of capitalism and how this logic has become conventional wisdom embedded in our social policy and programs. This section will break down key terms.
- To detect the free market ideology, the elite, and corporate-run government “dog whistles” and mechanisms underpinning program development, financing, implementation, and evaluation. In addition to the current crisis, we will review examples from neighborhood reinvestment efforts, public-private partnerships, and collective impact.
- To discern tangible ways to build an evaluation design that is responsive to a pro-public, pro-democracy values system, and resists racialized and gendered capitalist encroachment on evaluation methodologies. Many thought leaders of color have interrogated American capitalism and our evaluations can benefit from their work. Our evaluation colleagues at AfREA, through the Made in Africa (MAE), initiative have already linked global capitalism and imperialism with monitoring and evaluation methodologies, as did proponents of decolonizing research methodologies under the tutelage of Linda Tuhiwai Smith. We extend that discourse with this skills-based session.
- To practice warriorship we are drafting a Hard Questions handout to work through a hypothetical evaluation RFP using this macro lens. We are working on the format for this aspect of the webinar as we figure out logistics and the possible use of virtual breakout rooms.
- Since 2011, ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc. has provided emancipatory field development, networking, and capacity building for evaluators serving Wisconsin and works toward a diverse, representative, and responsive evaluation workforce. It values social justice and centers people of color and underrepresented groups in its strategy. It works closely with an ever-expanding network of evaluators in the state and midwest region. We began preparing this webinar pre-pandemic as a continuation of the work started with members of the Young African Leaders Initiative in the summers of 2018 and 2019 on capitalism and evaluation.
- In the Public Interest is a nonprofit research and policy center committed to the democratic control of public goods and services. We help citizens, public officials, advocacy groups, and researchers better understand the impacts of government contracts and public-private agreements on service quality, democratic decision-making, and public budgets.
This webinar is a centering space to help get you started on your next evaluation design using this macro lens, whether your next evaluation is an after-school arts program, neighborhood reinvestment, or an assessment of pharmaceutical bundling of COVID-19 medications. Evaluators amplify voices and set knowledge agendas. We cannot be silent or neutral on the adverse consequences of unregulated capitalism. Capitalism is no longer too big, abstract, or immaterial. Disaster capitalism is already here and evaluators must respond to this.
This original content and material for this webinar was spearheaded by ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc. with the help of In the Public’s Interest, which has written extensively about conservative attacks on government and the impact of privatization on universal access to public goods.
We don’t know what May 2020 holds so we plan to record the session and offer the recording to all registrants at some point after the webinar.
This session is for evaluators, evaluation researchers, funders, government staff, and most importantly, the evaluand – the everyday warrior. To help diffuse this information throughout your organization we encourage entire teams to participate.
If you have already directly confronted capitalism in your evaluation and would like to share a past evaluation product and your brilliant mind with the field, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The full announcement and background details can be found here.