Through Lentil Lab, Tehseen Noorani and I are developing the concept of radical evaluations (RE) – a term we use to describe evaluations that are committed to social transformation – through their methods as well as their recommendations. For us, RE are where transformative evaluations meet, in particular, decolonising approaches.
RE are both grounded (in social movements, in critical theory, in wisdom traditions) and experimenting (through practices that are reflexive, imaginative and nimble). It is this praxis that enables RE to be response/able within current political conditions. And it is this praxis that RE ultimately aim to activate in evaluatees in order to facilitate evaluatees’ own commitments to social transformation.
An orienting ethos of RE is to make recommendations that lead to social transformations which would reduce the need for evaluatees’ projects, programmes or services in the first place.
Unlike standard evaluations, RE are therefore accountable not to the evaluatee per se so much as the broader social movements that they are embedded within.
In RE, both methods and recommendations:
- situate evaluatees in their historical, social and political context
- engage critical theory
- consider non-human as well as human stakeholders
- prioritise the expertise of the marginalised
- value embodied and inspirited as much as rational knowledges
- beckon and host imagination
- are rhizomatic (non-hierarchical, non-linear, multi-modal)
- activate evaluatee reflexivity
- contribute to social movements
This work is a response to Frantz Fanon’s call for transforming the world, more than knowing it; for revolution, more than description; for creating possibilities, more than exhausting them.
It has emerged from our involvement in over three dozen evaluations in New York City, Washington DC, London and Bristol, including through our leadership of a final year module – ‘Praxis’ – for Clinical and Community Psychology students at the University of East London.