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Reluctance to the Evaluation Process – Some Historical and Cultural Context

Although there may be many reasons why a client might be hesitant or resistant to evaluations, distrust of scientific research methods, in general, is one that can appear in a wide variety of political variations. Here, I want to briefly consider some issues relevant to evaluation that can be relevant from one form of distrust of research from racial minorities in the U.S., in particular.

Note that I used the phrase “scientific research methods” above, and even though program evaluation is not, per se, research, from some people’s perspective this distinction is not important. The process does involve collection of personal information from an official or professional. Given these caveats, here are some notes about a potential source of distrust of evaluators, followed by a suggestion.

This distrust can appear to be a form of general distrust of cultural outsiders, but in this case the outsiders are white professionals asking for personal information, and there are many historical examples of injustice committed by this group. These individuals can be medical researchers, scientists, government officials, journalists, or evaluators – but what they have in common is a desire for personal information for abstract reasons, as well as a history of injustice, exploitation, deceit, and abuse of trust.

For example, collected information has not infrequently been used against the group that gave the information for “security” reasons, been used, or sold without credit or acknowledgement, or has primarily been used for the benefit of the administrator’s career, rather than the benefit of the community.

Although the extent of historical precedent may be difficult or impossible to overcome in a particular instance, one way of mitigating the distrust in some cases is to increase reliance on qualitative interviews with skeptical clients. This can be perceived as less invasive than a survey and interviews themselves provide an opportunity to build trust. If the client refuses to conduct an interview about the benefits or concerns about a program, perhaps they would be willing to have a discussion about why they don’t want to participate.

Further Reading:
Tuhiwai Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples.
Scharff, D.P., Mathews, J.K., Jackson, P., Hoffsuemmer, J., Martin, E., & Edwards, D. (2015). More than Tuskegee: Understanding Mistrust about Research Participation. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 21(3).

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.“

– Peter Drucker

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