Unapologetically Transforming Evaluation and Philanthropy

Alumni Spotlight: Art Garcia (LSC '21)

Art recently reached out to us about the exciting work he is doing in measurement and evaluation and promoting racial equity and DEI practices. Art was in the LSC 2021 class and is a part of SCLN's Alumni Committee.

Can you explain a little bit more about the work you are doing and why it is important?

I am currently working (remotely in L.A.) as a Strategic Learning and Evaluation Officer for the Kresge Foundation, a large private foundation located in Detroit, MI. Kresge’s mission is to expand opportunities for low income Americans and spent about $160 million in grantmaking and social investments in 2020 to help communities across the U.S. foster economic and social change.

My job is categorized into 3 areas:

1) Support learning and evaluation practices for three Programs Division teams (Health, American Cities and Detroit) to help strengthen and improve their work happening at the federal, state and local levels. These teams typically work with multiple sectors and use community development, capacity strengthening, and infrastructure strengthening strategies as well as strengthening local leadership within major U.S. cities, such as Detroit, MI, Memphis, TN, New Orleans, LA and Fresno, CA.

2) Support learning and evaluation practices organization-wide using a racial equity lens and incorporating the principles of the Equitable Evaluation Framework, including supporting the foundation’s diversity, equity and inclusion journey. This can look like helping the organization examine and change our grantmaking practices to be more equitable and/or inclusive or ensuring community voice is incorporated into how we design and implement our strategies and evaluations.

3) Work with national partners such as the Center for Evaluation Innovation, Equitable Evaluation Institute, and foundations to shift the evaluation field and philanthropy sector to be more equitable and inclusive of theories, models, and practices from evaluators of color and women and that are more inclusive of community voice and participation (beyond tokenism).

Is there any call to action or a way that our alumni can get engaged?

It is this third area of my work where hundreds of my colleagues and peers within evaluation and philanthropy are disrupting the narrative that evaluation is rooted in the theories, models and ideas of white men while excluding and marginalizing evaluators of color, indigenous evaluators, and evaluators using evaluation for racial, gender, and economic justice. We are petitioning the Guilford Press and the editors of Evaluation Roots: Tracing Theorists’ Views and Influences, a book widely used by evaluation courses and programs, to more accurately represent the evaluation field in the book’s next edition.

We are asking people from all sectors, including any SCLN alumni, to sign and distribute this petition to help us transform the evaluation field and it’s practices to better serve, support and protect communities of color and community-based organizations that have been disinvested, tokenized and taken advantage of for way too long. In my 15+ years as a public health and social justice evaluator/ researcher, I see the importance and need for being more inclusive. I consistently look beyond the traditional academic approaches to more accurately evaluate social change and community transformation initiatives and to ensure evaluation findings are applicable and practical to the communities I work with.

How did your experience in LSC/ SCLN inspire, prepare, or connect you to do your work?

I don’t think I would have really leaned in to my role as an evaluator without the teachings of and camaraderie I found at SCLN. SCLN really helped me tap into my leadership potential and gave me the strength to voice my opinion and ideas without fear and judgement. Learning from the diverse perspectives in my cohort and sharing a little bit more about myself helped ground my thinking and nontraditional approaches to doing community evaluation and research.

Describe your thoughts on growing as a leader and serving your community. Do you have any leadership advice for your fellow alumni, especially as it relates to the work you’re doing?

My advice for fellow alumni is to lean into your role as a leader (with or without the formal title) and be reflective. Halfway through the program, I was laid off by my former employer during COVID. It was this program and reflecting about my experiences as a public health/ social justice evaluator (along with many conversations with colleagues) that helped solidify my approach to evaluation, the values and principles that I hold dear and want to promote within my work and to be unapologetic about my stance. This ultimately helped me get the job that was the best fit for me (my current position) and made me feel fulfilled. It also helped me build a network of other like-minded, unapologetic evaluators of color that were willing to co-conspire with me to transform the evaluation field and philanthropy.