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Advancing Evaluation: Black Canadian Evaluation Capacity Building Pilot

In the evolving landscape of evaluation, the Black Canadian Communities Evaluation Capacity Building (ECB) Pilot emerged as a unique initiative, testing a new approach to evaluation capacity building to advance new standards for how evaluation is approached within Black-focused, Black-led, and Black-serving (B3’s) organizations. In an insightful interview, Yonatan Ghebray, Senior Director of Evaluation, Learning, and Quality Improvement at the Network for the Advancement of Black Communities, and Neil Price, the Executive Director of Logical Outcomes, take us on a journey into this innovative endeavor. Together, they reflect on the valuable lessons learned as the pilot concludes and offer a vision for the future of culturally responsive evaluation. 

The Black Canadian Evaluation Capacity Building (ECB) Pilot emerged in response to the challenges B3s faced during the pandemic and post-pandemic periods. NABC understood that building B3s’ adaptive capacity is critical to their recovery from the pandemic and long-term viability and continued to advocate for sustained investment to strengthen B3s adaptive capacity. Building B3s’ capacity to evaluate their work, use evaluation data to learn from their work, and improve results for Black communities, is a key ingredient to building their adaptive capacity. The traditional approach to building evaluation capacity has not worked and NABC and its partners decided to test a new approach to building evaluation capacity through the pilot.  

The pilot’s primary goal was twofold: (a) to test a new approach to building B3s’ evaluation capacity centred on the perspectives and realities of B3s and the Black communities they serve; and (b)to create a collaborative space for learning to developing a culturally and contextually relevant evaluation capacity building model.  

Creating Space for Learning and Transparency 
A key achievement of the pilot was its commitment to learning. Beyond generating results, it aimed to foster an environment where learning could thrive. This approach differed from the relentless focus on predefined outcomes. As Ghebray aptly described it, “This approach allowed participants to breathe and feel the weight lifted off their shoulders.” Prioritizing learning over performance encouraged a more relaxed approach to evaluation, counteracting its perception as a high-stakes, accountability-driven endeavor. 

Transparency and openness also defined the pilot’s design, where continuous reflection and adaptation were integral to collective growth and learning. As Price emphasized, “There’s a need for these conversations – evaluation is a subject that garners interest, and there’s a genuine desire among Black-focused organizations to rethink evaluation in a manner that is meaningful and culturally relevant for our community.” The pilot not only initiated these vital conversations but also paved the way for a more inclusive and culturally responsive approach to evaluation, providing a space for open dialogue in the evaluation landscape for Black Canadian communities. 

Navigating Challenges and Embracing Opportunities 
While the ECB Pilot embarked on its journey with enthusiasm, it encountered its share of challenges and alignment issues. Price observed, “One of the key lessons learned from the pilot was that B3 organizations are at different stages in their evaluation journey. Accordingly, we had to be responsive to context at all times and meet organizations where they are.” This challenge arose from the varying stages at which organizations found themselves, emphasizing the need to meet each organization where it stood in its evaluation capacity-building journey. Ghebray pointed out that certain transactional behaviours could infiltrate the evaluation process, underscoring the necessity of a collective effort to shift the perception of evaluation’s purpose. Evaluation, the pilot revealed, was not just about reporting to funders but, more profoundly, about how it could genuinely benefit organizations and communities. These challenges underscored the importance of ongoing support, access to resources, and the cultivation of a culture of dialogue within the evaluation framework. 

Decolonizing and Shifting Mindsets 
Participants in the pilot brought forth diverse perspectives on Afrocentric evaluation. Price highlighted the importance of acknowledging the Eurocentric roots of the evaluation field and the necessity of decolonizing it. This perspective involved a fundamental re-evaluation of evaluation, questioning established norms, and exploring alternative approaches to measuring impact and outcomes. Some participants emphasized collectivity, recognizing the principle that “there’s no me without we,” valuing shared narratives and experiences related to evaluation. Others focused on ensuring that evaluation was culturally responsive, considering the diversity within African and Black communities and how it manifested in their experiences. The dialogue also ventured into the idea of incorporating community voices into evaluation, redefining the purpose of evaluation beyond reporting to funders, and fostering a culture of learning and openness. Ghebray noted, “This offers a starting point for practitioners, funders, and government stakeholders to engage with the multifaceted aspects of Afrocentricity.” By challenging the existing transactional approach and fostering a more open and collective space for learning, evaluation could transform into a tool for positive change, empowering organizations to reflect on their practices and make them more culturally responsive. 

Building Momentum for Lasting Change 
As the Black Canadian Communities ECB Pilot concludes, sharing the lessons learned is vital for building upon its successes and learning to avoid pitfalls. Engaging with key stakeholders, including funders, remains crucial, along with nurturing a culture of dialogue. Creating spaces for meaningful dialogue, even in the absence of resources, can sustain enthusiasm and support for this critical work. Ongoing conversations should continue to challenge the deeply ingrained transactional relationships within the realm of evaluation. The pilot succeeded in cultivating a culture of learning, reflection, and adaptability. It highlighted the potential of conversations surrounding Afrocentric perspectives on evaluation and underscored the hunger for transformative evaluation practices. As Ghebray aptly concluded, “The appetite is stronger now, more than ever before.” 


The Black Canadian Communities ECB Pilot has opened a space for a different kind of conversation on evaluation thinking and practice, emphasizing the transformative power of creating spaces for learning, openness, and transparency. The challenges were met with resilience and an unwavering commitment to reshape evaluation practices. As the pilot concludes, the journey is far from over. It has paved the way for ongoing dialogue, engagement with stakeholders, and a collective endeavor to shift the mindset on evaluation. The possibility to transform evaluative thinking and practices in a way that affirms the experiences and perspectives of Black communities holds a lot of promise, but it will require openness and readiness to shift our collective mindsets. 

To learn more about the pilot, please contact NABC’s Senior Director of Evaluation, Learning and Quality Improvement, Yonatan Ghebray at [email protected]. 




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