Get Lit: A Q&A with Katie Fox of Innovation Network

Luminare Group is passionate about serving as a platform to elevate diverse voices in our field. In 2019, Luminare Group has selected 10 guest editors for our monthly Be Lumin-Us newsletter. We also feature their work or Q&A’s on this blog.

August Guest Editor of Be Lumin-Us: Katie Fox

Katie Fox is an evaluator of the social sector and social movements and works as a Senior Associate with Innovation Network. Katie has over ten years of experience in social justice philanthropy, organizing, advocacy, and evaluation. Her passion lies in assessing complex social change initiatives, and she is skilled in evaluating civic engagement, grassroots social movements and organizing, and leadership development initiatives.

What idea/practice are you most in love with currently? Why?

Lately I’ve been really gravitating towards the idea of valuing multiple ways of knowing in evaluation. I was introduced to it through Change Elemental’s work on this topic – they have identified it as one of the core elements of transformational change. What that means is going beyond the Eurocentric view of what is rigorous and to honor the myriad ways that people experience and make sense of the world. 

This idea really resonates with me because since becoming an evaluator, I too often feel like the indicators and benchmarks we prioritize to measure social justice work are disconnected from how people experience social justice. For example, throughout my career, I’ve found that for most people, social justice work is deeply emotional and personal. But I’ve been a part of too many conversations with evaluators and funders where the emotional and relational elements of the work are deemed to be too hard to measure or too “squishy.” This idea of valuing multiple ways of knowing is inspiring me to think differently about what and how I evaluate.

What makes you smile every time?

Katie’s rescue dog, Savvy

Katie’s rescue dog, Savvy

My cute rescue dog Savvy. We think she’s part pit bull, part Boston terrier, and part Australian cattle dog. Her trainer says she’s too smart for her own good. Soon after we adopted her, she taught herself how to open doors so she could go nap on the couch in our living room and let herself out into the backyard. We had to make an emergency trip to the hardware store at 9pm to buy some Savvy-proof door knobs.

What's something that you love and you wish people would talk about more?

I wish people in evaluation and philanthropy would talk more about community organizing. Not only does community organizing play a critical role in advancing the type of systems change everyone's talking about now, but it also is an important strategy for cultivating and reinforcing democratic participation and values. 

Unfortunately, it gets little love from philanthropy or evaluation. I read a statistic recently from a report by the International Human Rights Funders Group and Candid that only eight percent of human rights funding goes to support community organizing (compared to advocacy – 43 percent, public engagement/awareness-raising - 21 percent, and capacity-building/technical assistance – 13 percent). We need to talk more about how to appropriately fund and evaluate community organizing so organizers can get the support they need to get to scale. 

All that said, I know community organizing is often not well-understood, so for those wanting to learn more about it, I recommend Hahrie Hahn’s book, How Organizations Develop Activists. It’s a great primer on community organizing.

What's an unlikely place that you turn to when you need inspiration?

Recently, I started collecting biographies and memoirs authored by women about women who have been overlooked by history but who have made inspiring and important contributions. Some of my recent favorites were Madame President by Helene Cooper and The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel

I keep them on a prominent shelf in my house so I can catch glimpses of them as I walk by. As you can imagine, these women faced and overcame significant structural barriers – which in itself is inspiring. But what I like the most about these women’s stories is that they also often had a lot of internal, personal obstacles to overcome – they experienced crippling self-doubt, they struggled with work-life balance, and they made epic mistakes. I find it relatable and refreshing to hear that while these women made extraordinary contributions to the world, aspects of their journeys were often remarkably ordinary. 

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