Cultural Competency

Evaluators may come across situations where they have to work in a cultural context other than of their own. Culture is the sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another and shapes the behaviour, world view and ways of living of its members. Without recognizing the influence of culture on human behaviour, the evaluators may arrive at conclusions which are fundamentally flawed.

The American Evaluation Association’s Guiding Principles for Evaluation states that,  "to ensure recognition, accurate interpretation, and respect for diversity, evaluators should ensure that the members of the evaluation team collectively demonstrate cultural competence." (AEA, 2011)

Cultural competence is not acquisition of certain skills or knowledge but an attitude towards a culture. A culturally competent evaluator is the one who is ready to engage with various sections of communities to embrace cultural and contextual dimensions important to the evaluation. Critical self reflection could be considered the first building block towards accomplishing cultural competence as it is not only the cultural context of the evaluee that needs consideration but values, belief and culture of the evaluators are also important. Culturally competent evaluators not only respect the cultures represented in the evaluation but recognize their own ‘culturally based assumptions’; take into account the  ‘differing world view of evaluation stakeholders and target communities’ and select culturally appropriate evaluation options and strategies (AEA 2011; SenGupta, Hopson & Thompson-Robinson 2004).

SenGupta, Hopson,and Thompson-Robinson (2004) describe cultural competence in evaluation as: "a systematic, responsive inquiry that is actively cognizant, understanding, and appreciative of the cultural context in which the evaluation takes place; that frames and articulates the epistemology of the evaluative endeavour; that employs culturally and contextually appropriate methodology; and that uses stakeholder-generated, interpretive means to arrive at the results and further use of the findings" (p.13)

Growing interest over the years, however, has resulted in the ‘Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation’ by the AEA in 2011. This is a manifestation of increasing emphasises on acknowledging cultural diversity and its importance for ethical and high quality evaluation practice. Following are included as the essential practice for cultural competence in AEA’s statement.

  • Acknowledge the complexity of cultural identity.
  • Recognize the dynamics of power.
  • Recognize and eliminate bias in language.
  • Employ culturally appropriate options

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The article, 'Culturally competent evaluation in Indian Country' provides an example of a culturally competent evaluation and explores its significance to achieving accurate evaluation. Taken from the Abstract:

"Culturally competent evaluation in Indian Country requires an understanding of the rich diversity of tribal peoples and the importance of self-determination and sovereignty. If an evaluation can be embedded within an indigenous framework, it is more responsive to tribal ethics and values. An indigenous orientation to evaluation suggests methodological approaches, a partnership between the evaluator and the program, and reciprocity."

LaFrance, J (2004). Culturally competent evaluation in Indian Country. New Directions for Evaluation. Issue 102, pages 39–50. Wiley Online.



American Evaluation Association (AEA). (2011). American Evaluation Association Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation. Fairhaven, MA: Author. Accessed on 21 July, 2011 Retrieved from

American Evaluation Association (AEA) (2004). Guiding Principles for Evaluation. American Evaluation Association. Accessed on 21 July, 2011 Retrieved from

LaFrance, J (2004). Culturally competent evaluation in Indian Country. New Directions for Evaluation. Issue 102, pages 39–50

SenGupta, S, Hopson, R & Thompson-Robinson, M (2004) Cultural Competence in Evaluation: An Overview.  New Directions in Evaluation. (102) 5-19 Retrieved from

Updated: 11th July 2016 - 9:35am


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