Coactive Change is a global majority, Black, and woman-owned consulting practice. We partner with change agents working to disrupt and dismantle systems of oppression. We intentionally refer to change agents in a broad way. This includes organizers and activists, grassroots and community organizations, coalitions and collaboratives. We also work with people challenging and disrupting institutionalized oppression within the nonprofit industrial complex, including professionalized nonprofits and philanthropy. We believe in the power of collective, subjugated knowledge and collaboration to achieve our collective liberation. This belief grounds our decisions about who to partner with and the types of work we engage in. Our services integrate our experience in grassroots organizing, sociocultural anthropology, ethnography, and evaluation. While we love working on collaborative and participatory evaluation projects—change strategy, thought partnership, facilitation, and coaching are at the heart of what we do.
What is Evaluation and What Does it Have to do with Power?According to the American Evaluation Association, a large professional association for evaluators with members within and outside of the United States, evaluation “is a systematic process to determine merit, worth, value, or significance”. This definition makes it clear that evaluation represents a way of valuing and producing knowledge and claims about what is and is not true that can wield a great deal of power. The very act of collecting and interpreting information requires decisions about what counts and what doesn’t count. For example, who we choose to interview or survey, what lens we use to interpret and develop findings, and who is making these decisions. Historically and predominantly today, the focus of evaluation and research—families, community members, nonprofit participants, and so on—have no or little say in evaluation and research design and activities. This is deeply problematic. Findings and recommendations directly impact these groups through decisions within and across foundations, nonprofits, and other institutions. This manifests in many ways. For example, evaluation findings shape perceptions of and narratives about communities. Also, evaluation findings shape access to resources and the way funding flows. Chicago Beyond recognizes the power and influence that evaluation and research projects wield. They assert: “Making intentional change can feel messy and uncomfortable. It requires openness to new perspectives and unlearning old ones. It requires shifting power dynamics, departing from how ‘it has always been done.’ Starting from relationship and accountability [to community members and organizations], researchers can unlock immense creativity, to achieve the promise of what knowledge can yield for communities.” Chicago Beyond, “Why am I Always Being Researched?
If we fail to take direction from communities impacted by and scrutinized through evaluation, our work is inherently unjust and inequitable. For this reason, we commit to centering these communities throughout our work. We have a long way to go towards dismantling white supremacy, racial capitalism, settle colonialism, and other interlocking oppressive systems. If you choose to work with us, we commit to engaging in critical conversations with you about these issues. We will create space for collective reflection and growth. We will challenge you and ourselves to interrogate how we both reinforce and disrupt oppressive patterns within our contexts.