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Authors: Karina Lehrner and Petra Novakova

For this International Women’s Day, we (the EES TWG 1 gender and evaluation) would like to invite you into a conversation about underlying principles that we see as interconnecting fundamental frameworks: Gender-Transformative Evaluation, Decolonisation, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). These distinctively defined frameworks were created to challenge power structures, promote social justice, and centre marginalised voices and experiences. They were constructed to address the inequalities and injustices perpetuated by colonial legacies and patriarchal systems. Thus, their unifying purpose has been to apply a critical lens in our work to dismantle unjust and oppressive structures and advance us towards a more equitable world.

We believe that the interconnectedness of gender-transformative evaluation, decolonisation, and DEI have the potential to more formally shape a universal set of equity-enriched evaluative practices. Some of the core principles from gender-transformative evaluation that we can apply across a universal framework for equity-enriched evaluative practices are shared here.

Intersectionality brings nuanced insights into the lived experiences of marginalised groups, with deep contextualization of complex and intersecting identities, among them, gender, race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and disability.

Participation and inclusion involve diverse stakeholders throughout evaluative practices, incorporating their wisdom and insights to inform evaluation design, implementation, and interpretation, and amplify their voices.

Power dynamics identify root causes to challenge systemic discrimination and unequal power relations in order to pursue a more equitable distribution of resources, opportunities, and decision-making authority.

Transformative action advocates for policy reforms, challenges harmful norms, and promotes initiatives contributing to social justice.

What if these combined principles shape our efforts to adopt a more holistic and systemic evaluative practice? Could we advance our practice by integrating three interconnected critical lenses: gender-transformative evaluation, decolonisation, and DEI?

We begin the conversation here, with questions. What would it take to deepen and contextualize these terminologies (gender-transformative, decolonising, DEI) into a cohesive evaluative practice. We believe a first and pertinent step involves exploring the terms themselves. Do we have a shared sense of what gender-transformative, decolonising, and DEI mean and look like? Do we all similarly interpret them, or do we need to be more context-sensitive? How do our diverse perspectives, experiences and backgrounds shape our understanding of these terms as well as the implications of using them in our practice and various contexts?

The above questions form our sense of curiosity and implore us to invite you into a conversation. Perhaps you have asked yourself these questions. Perhaps you have felt that you are working in a silo when you see that these values clearly intersect as part of a broader conceptual framework. The conversation we would like to facilitate seeks to unpack how complex cultural contexts and perspectives are constructed within the broader global evaluation ecosystems, and in particular, within the European evaluation ecosystem. We would like to collectively explore how an equity-enriched evaluative practice could challenge the dominance of Western epistemologies and knowledge systems, and attend to the nuanced interplay of social norms and power dynamics. We believe the convergence of these lenses will democratize traditional evaluation frameworks that otherwise have the propensity to perpetuate colonial legacies and biases. Therefore, we seek to pursue a practice that recognises multiple ways of knowing and understanding the world, and employs approaches that are inclusive, participatory, contextually grounded.

As a result of this conversation (and part of an ongoing dialogue), we seek to formulate a shared agreement of meanings behind the terminologies. We envision the co-creation of a roadmap for deepening and embedding the three critical lenses – gender-transformative evaluation, decolonisation, and DEI – into a universalizing framework for our evaluation practice.

Our intention for writing this blog is to pique your interest and inspire you to join us as we explore this potential way forward. As you can see, we don’t have answers; we have many questions. We believe that this discussion requires a collective process and safe space that brings together diverse backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, and wisdom. We understand that for a process to be transformative, it cannot be done in silos (by a single TWG); rather, that it takes place as part of a broad conversation within an interdisciplinary ecosystem. Our commitment is to open and guide this conversation, with knowledge that this will take time. In so doing, we feel confident that this conversation will eventually create a pathway to a more transformative evaluation practice.

Are you intrigued and up for the challenge? If so, please, accept our invitation and join our conversation on this topic. We hope to begin this conversation, and ideally a journey together, as we gather for the conference in Rimini.