Reflections From My Last Month on the Road

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One of the things I love most about this work is that I get to be in spaces where people come together, united by common values and intentions, and engage in learning. They do so not just for learning’s sake but also to deepen connections and understanding, to strengthen practice and to ultimately contribute to a just and equitable world.  

For much of September, I have been on the road participating in a variety of educational opportunities, primarily focusing on the philanthropic sector. Reflecting on the past month (at 30,000 feet on my way back to the Bay Area), a few things from each experience sit with me:

NCG New Grantmakers’ Institute  

This is the second time I have served as faculty at this 2-day new grantmaker orientation. This year I spoke to the power of evaluative thinking as a tool for aligning and making more meaningful inquiry and data use, linking strategy and evaluation. The class of almost 70 reflected a diverse set of foundations.

  • They asked QUESTIONS!! Their smart questions reflected a systems orientation, an understanding of the power of inquiry and knowledge and a sincere desire to be in authentic relationships with nonprofit and community partners.

  • There was a heart and soul with the group that were palpable.

UnitySummit, Investing in Movements for Equity

This was my first time at the Summit, which was in New Orleans this year. More than 700 people were in attendance, reflecting a diversity of experiences, cultures and identities. This contributed to deeply honest and critical analyses of the current state of America and philanthropy. It was inspiring to be in rooms where everyone was driven to address the structural and systematic barriers that privilege one group of people above all others.  

  • There is a growing number of female leaders (in organizations, networks and movements) with a knowledge and analysis of the state of our country and the history that binds and limits us that inspires me and gives me hope for the future.

  • It was a good reminder that strategies and solutions must move us toward equity and liberation.

Kresge -  Learning Session at Program Forum

Kresge joined the Equitable Evaluation Team as a funding partner in fall 2016. Since then they have been a great thought partner and champion of promoting equitable evaluation.

  • Staff easily moved into conversations about how they could address the orthodoxies, recognizing that “it depends” is the answer.

Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment Conference

I was the at the first CREA in 2011 and have attended every CREA since then. It has been refreshing to be in a space where evaluation is centered in culture and context and that the perspectives shared reflect indigenous and non-Western frames. I’ll share more in a forthcoming post.

  • Evaluation professionals want to but struggle to talk critically about the role of race and class within evaluation.

  • There is a need for new voices to be heard and design creative conversations around the purpose of evaluation and how race and class affect it.

My mind and heart are still making sense of all that I felt, witnessed and was able to contribute to this month, both at the gatherings above and all the spaces in between. One thing I am certain of, however, is that the work I do is the work I am meant to do.

Luminare ViewJara Dean-Coffey