Cultural Competence in Evaluation

Cultural competence is the ability to act with sensitivity to and understanding of the cultural values of individuals and groups.

Culture can be described as the socially transmitted pattern of beliefs, values, and actions shared by groups of people. With respect to evaluation, it may affect everything from how a person with limited English proficiency understands and accesses consent forms, to the appropriateness of survey or interview questions, to the format and context in which data and results are presented.

Cultural competence in evaluation is essential to ensuring that an evaluation is respectful and responsive to those involved, and it improves the effectiveness of work in cross-cultural settings.

A culturally competent perspective can promote effective collaboration and ensure that cultural competence is integrated into the entire evaluation process, from choosing the methodology, to selecting the right surveys or data collection tools, to reporting the data and findings.

Things to Consider When Building a Culturally Competent Evaluation Process

  • Researchers’ cultural values and beliefs
  • Researchers’ level of knowledge about the community and culture involved in the evaluation
  • Researchers’ interpersonal, relationship-building, and communication skills
  • How to obtain diverse stakeholder feedback during the evaluation process
  • How to establish a partnership with stakeholders
  • The sensitivity of topics
  • Appropriate survey language, reading levels, and delivery methods
  • Culturally based perceptions of voluntary participation, privacy, and confidentiality
  • A culture’s or community’s previous experiences with evaluation or research
  • Accessibility of resources and materials needed to understand the program or evaluation

You may want to explore established standards for providing services in a culturally competent manner. The guidelines summarized below were developed by the Office of Minority Health.

Traits of a Culturally Competent Person

  • Values the differences between groups and individuals
  • Knowledgeable about different cultures
  • Aware of the interaction between cultures
  • Knows about negative perceptions or stereotypes a group may face
  • Able to adapt, as needed, to adequately reach diverse groups

Assessing Cultural Competence

Self-reflection or self-assessment can be a useful starting point and ongoing activity to help build cultural competence. Building knowledge of one’s own assumptions, perceptions, and understandings of other cultures can assist in understanding different cultural perspectives.

Self-assessment can help an individual or organization assess how effectively they provide services to diverse groups, establish meaningful partnerships with communities and stakeholders, and identify areas for training and growth.

There are different kinds of personal reflections and self-assessments available for cultural competence.

The National Center for Cultural Competence has an example of a checklist assessment of cultural competence.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has an example of a personal reflection on cultural competence.