Integrating Design and Anthropology: Why Empathy and Cultural Relativism Matter

Session Number: 1404
Track: Program Theory and Theory-Driven Evaluation
Session Type: Roundtable
Tags: anthropology, Cultural Relativism, DesignThinking, Empathy
Session Facilitator: Chithra Adams [Director Of Evaluation - HDI, University of Kentucky]
First Author or Discussion Group Leader: Aisha Rios [Senior Evaluation Specialist - Karna]
Time: Oct 28, 2016 (11:00 AM - 11:45 AM)
Room: A706

Audience Level: All Audiences

Session Abstract: 

This roundtable will explore what it means to be an empathetic evaluator and the value it confers methodologically through the interdisciplinary lens of evaluation, anthropology, and design. As evaluators, how do we navigate the power laden terrain between expertise and humility when working with diverse stakeholders? To whom are we empathetic and to what ends? The presenters will draw connections between design attitude and the anthropological principle/method cultural relativism. Both frameworks posit that non-judgmental attention to culture and context are critical to the development of an accurate understanding of other humans. Employing cultural relativism also offsets power differentials embedded within both research and evaluation contexts. As such, the presenters suggest the two frameworks together are valuable inclusions in the design of quality evaluations. Roundtable attendees will be provided a space to reflect on their own engagements with empathy in evaluation, and challenges approaching evaluation design within these frameworks.