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Equity and Evaluation: Models of How Equity Can and Does Impact Evaluation

The philanthropic and nonprofit fields, and organizations and individuals serving those fields, have shown an increasing focus on equity over the last few years [1]. Conversations have moved from murmurings to deeper engagement by institutions like Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Equitable Evaluation Initiative, which have explicitly published principles on applying an equity lens to grantmaking and evaluation. 

At TCC Group, we have also taken a more proactive approach to making equity an internal value, including the establishment of a Diversity Committee that works on policies and practices related to our firm’s own work on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ve instituted a robust learning agenda for staff across the firm and strengthened our evaluation work by participating in the American Evaluation Association’s Graduate Education Diversity Initiative (GEDI). This win-win initiative is committed to fostering a more diverse field of evaluators, and participating allows us to provide hands-on experiences for evaluators from diverse backgrounds. It also helps us gain critical insight into how those being actively trained in Culturally Responsive Evaluation (CRE) perceive our evaluation practices [2].

Upon absorbing the wealth of information shared by our colleagues, we realized we’ve had varying experiences in how we’ve incorporated an equity lens (or lack thereof) into our work [3]. We’ve decided to share some of our experiences with our peers in the field in order to spur conversation, disseminate our lessons learned, and encourage others to talk about these issues. One of our biggest challenges in navigating equity issues in evaluation is how unprepared people can be to talk candidly. We hope that by sharing our experiences, we can make this conversation more explicit.

While we absolutely don’t pretend to have all the answers, or indeed a lot of them, we do think that our learnings will help guide others trying to embed the principles of equitable evaluation into their work [4].

This booklet shares five scenarios around equity in which we’ve had to clarify our role and form an appropriate response.


[1] The Annie E. Casey Foundation defines equity as “the state, quality or ideal of being just, impartial and fair.” The concept of equity is synonymous with fairness and justice. It is helpful to think of equity as not simply a desired state of affairs or a lofty value. To be achieved and sustained, equity needs to be thought of as a structural and systemic concept.”

[2] The GEDI (Graduate Education Diversity Initiative) program is run by the American Evaluation Association and meant to introduce graduate students from underrepresented populations to the evaluation field. Associated activities include a site placement (where interns work two days a week) and additional activities linked to evaluation curricula, such as attending conferences.

[3] As a definition for equity, TCC tends to use the definition provided by Annie E. Casey (above). We haven’t fully defined equity lens for our own practice, but see it as emphasizing and bringing a focus on equity into our work as evaluators.

[4] The three articulated principles by the Equitable Evaluation Initiative are: 1) evaluation and evaluative work should be in service of equity; 2) evaluation work can and should answer critical questions about ways historical and structure decisions have contributed to the condition to be addressed, effect of a strategy on different populations and underlying systemic drivers of inequity, and ways in which cultural context is tangled up in both the structural conditions and the change initiative itself; 3) evaluative work should be designed and implemented commensurate with the values underlying equity work (e.g., multi-culturally valid and oriented toward participant ownership). Learn more about the Equitable Evaluation principles.

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