Over the last month, we have actively been drafting an anti-racism pledge as we study and reflect on equity in our work. We are hopeful that under the leadership of President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris, who both addressed systemic racism in their acceptance speeches, our government will begin the hard work of addressing racism in earnest. Our pledge demonstrates our own earnestness in pursuing anti-racist actions.
We at RK&A, individually and collectively, pledge our commitment to being anti-racist—which we recognize as an ongoing pursuit through our everyday actions.
We consider anti-racist practices a part of Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion (DEAI) efforts that we already pursue. However, we want to make a specific pledge to anti-racist practices to acknowledge the monumental challenge of combatting racism in our world. Being anti-racist is important to us because:
- We want to contribute to a more equitable world for individuals facing racial injustices: Black, Indigeneous, and People of Color (BIPOC).
- We want our research and evaluation work with museums and cultural institutions to confront and challenge systemic racism.
- We believe in the educational missions of museums and cultural organizations, but we are concerned they will become irrelevant to the public if they do not address their entrenchment in racist systems.
We will take the following actions to embed equity and anti-racist actions into our research and evaluation practices:
- Apply We All Count’s Data Equity Framework to systematically examine our work for bias, assumptions, unfairness, and prejudice at seven project stages:
- Funding: We will always be explicit about a project’s funder and transparent about any implications of the funding source.
- Motivation: As evaluators, we always seek to understand why our clients are motivated to do evaluation and use this as a guidepost for our work. In our work, we remind clients of their motivations to keep projects on task. We are committed to going one step further and challenging clients to reveal unconscious biases that may have racist undertones.
- Project Design: We have long valued collaboration with our clients, and we have come to realize that we cannot pursue anti-racist work without collaborating authentically with our clients. We must understand the audiences from which we are collecting data and the institution’s relationships with these audiences to design responsive studies.
- Data Collection: One guiding principle of evaluation is to collect only actionable data (i.e., data you will use). We will avoid optical allyship (i.e., recognizing the individual in a data collection instrument but not representing the individual in reporting) as we collect data about personal characteristics (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, etc).
- Data Analysis: We will challenge ourselves to rethink how we approach data analysis and question the norms of what rigor looks like (e.g., should statistical significance be standard, random versus purposeful sample, considerations for intersectionality, etc.)
- Interpreting Data: We will be more transparent in our reports that we are data interpreters (data does not speak for itself) by intentionally using terms and phrases like “We interpret this to be…”; “We infer from this data…”; etc.
- Communicating & Distributing Results: We have always customized our reports per the needs of a project or client, but we can take this further. We will rethink report design and communication strategies to ensure the way we share evaluation results is anti-racist.
- Ask questions to challenge white supremacy thinking and encounters with interpersonal racism (i.e., don’t fall into white silence).
- Continue personal and professional development in how to be anti-racist through various avenues (e.g., participate in VSA’s Bridging Communities FIG, attend sessions on CRE through VSA, AEA, Equitable Evaluation, and other evaluation organizations, etc.)
- Listen to and elevate BIPOC voices on our social media and in conversations with clients and colleagues.
- Remain open to criticism and critique in our endeavors to pursue anti-racist work (i.e., be vulnerable)
We recognize equity and anti-racist practices to be ongoing work. These are the first steps we will be taking, and we plan to reflect and expand upon these actions over time.
Stephanie Downey, Amanda Krantz, Cathy Sigmond, and Katie Chandler