Meet Aisha Rios

Aisha Rios (I-ee-sha), PhD (she/her)
Learning and Change Strategist

My name is Aisha Rios. I founded Coactive Change in early 2020 after working for several years as an external evaluator with consulting firms functioning at the federal, state, and local levels. My passion for social change and justice permeates my participatory and collaborative approach to working with partners, and these values ground my belief in the power of evaluation as a means to facilitate learning and change. I have engaged in grassroots organizing and community building that focused on issues ranging from the exploitation of adjuncts who are overworked and underpaid, and most recently the abolition of the prison industrial complex. The work I am most proud of has centered on dismantling structural violence by way of social movement and community organizing, both directly and in supporting other change agents.

From Our FounderI come from a long line of organizers, educators, storytellers, and agitators who I am proud to say have shaped who I am today. I am a Black, multiracial, able-bodied, straight, native English speaker, cis-gendered woman who was born in Detroit, Michigan but raised in the southern United States (mostly Gainesville, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia) but also had the privilege of traveling and living abroad in England and Spain during undergraduate school. My social identities and lived experiences inform my politics, my relationships, and my work within and outside of my consulting practice.

I bring over a decade of evaluation and applied research experience that has afforded me substantive knowledge in ethnographically grounded, culturally responsive, and equitable evaluations that center community knowledge, foster learning, and advance social justice. I have led complex, multistate and multicommunity, U.S.-based evaluations and research projects that explored systems change, community organizing, and advocacy across social services, public health, academia, state legislatures, and the criminal legal system. My current and former projects have focused on content areas including HIV/AIDS and STD prevention, K-12 education, older adult social services, federal policy and funding, community coalition building, and restorative justice.

As an evaluation consultant with Vantage Evaluation and Karna, I led and collaborated with interdisciplinary teams to design and execute evaluations and applied research projects for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of STD Prevention, CDC Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), and the Aging Center at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS).

Prior to 2014, I spent several years conducting a U.S.-based ethnographic dissertation research project that explored feminist and anti-feminist discourses and practices within and across state advocacy and community coalition building in response to gender-based violence. My dissertation Feminism(s), Politics, and Domestic Violence: Tensions and Challenges in Shifting the Discourse and Institutional Relationships explored multisector interpretations of and responses to gender-based violence in a southern U.S. state, within and across social services, state and legislative advocacy, the criminal legal system, and community coalition organizing.

I hold a PhD and MA in Sociocultural Anthropology from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and a BA in Anthropology from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Aisha’s CV

Community and Field Leadership: Organizing, Presentations, Podcasts, and More!

“Nothing is Broken: What Evaluation and Philanthropy Can Learn from Abolitionism” Presentation at the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations Conference. May 17, 2022. Invited speaker.

Check out this highlight from Nonprofit Quarterly.

“Generative Conflict and Consciousness Raising as an Alternative to ‘Do No Harm’ in Evaluation” An Evaluation Cafe hosted by The Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University. Feb 4, 2022. Invited speaker.

Inaugural community forum on de-escalation organized by the Denver Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety. December 11, 2021. Organizer.

“Abolishing Carcerality and Whiteness In, Through, and Around Whiteness” Plenary at the Annual American Evaluation Association Conference. November 10, 2021. Invited plenary speaker.

Radical (Re)Imagining podcast. August 2021. Invited guest.

“Equity in Practice” Panel with the Colorado Collaboratory on Equitable Evaluation. July 28th, 2021. Invited panelist.

“Tales from a Practicing Abolitionist: Inspiration for Whole Scale Transformations of Your Practice.” 2021. Invited Speaker at the Eastern Evaluation Research Society Annual Conference. Virtual. 

“Embodying the Change: How Culturally Responsive Evaluation, Anthropology, Abolition, and Emergent Strategy Guide my Practice Before and After Accepting Projects.” 2021. NVivo Culturally Responsive Research Webinar Series. Virtual.

Multiethnic Issues Topical Interest Group, Past (2021) Member at Large

Chinook Fund Giving Project “Meet the Changemakers” Panel. March 30, 2021. Invited moderator.

“Social Justice Evaluation with Dr. Aisha Rios” EvaluLand Podcast. January 19, 2021. Invited guest.

Chinook Fund Giving Project, Past (2020) Cohort Member

“Anti-Racism and Evaluation” Panel with the Atlanta-area Evaluation Association. October 22, 2020. Invited panelist.

Atlanta-Area Evaluation Association, Past (2018) President

“​How We Speak Truth Matters: Examining Power, Knowledge, and Evaluation Discourses Through an Anthropological Lens.” 2018. (Co-organized with Lavinia Nicolae) Session chaired at the annual meetings of the American Evaluation Association, Cleveland, Ohio.

“Integrating Design and Anthropology: Why Empathy and Cultural Relativism Matter.” 2016. (Co-organized with Chithra Adams) Session at the annual meetings of the American Evaluation Association, Atlanta, Georgia.

“Navigating Representation: Producing Ethnographies of Gender-Based Violence Organizing.” 2014. (Co-organized with Laura Nussbaum-Barberena) Session chaired at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association, Washington, D.C..

“Producing an Engaged Anthropologist: Lessons Learned Navigating the Space of Gender-Based Violence Organizing.” 2014. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association, Washington, D.C..

“Shelter Staff “Appreciation Days”: Intentional Conversations about Intersectionality and LGBTQI Intimate Partner Violence.” 2014. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the Society for Applied Anthropology Meeting, Albuquerque, NM.

“Queering Activist and Feminist Research on Violence Against Women.” 2012. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, CA.

Local Affiliate Collaborative to the American Evaluation Association, Co-Facilitator

Member of the Denver Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety, a community-based initiative to reimagine how we create public safety

American Evaluation Association, Member

Funder and Evaluator Affinity Network, Member

Colorado Collaboratory on Equitable Evaluation, Member

Colorado Evaluation Network, Member