Abstract: Cultural Exchanger: Using a Narrative Approach to Evaluate a Culturally-Based Family Agency (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

272P Cultural Exchanger: Using a Narrative Approach to Evaluate a Culturally-Based Family Agency

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Kendall Johnson, MSW, Doctoral Student, Boston University, Boston, MA
Xian Zhang, MS MA, Doctoral Student, Tufts University, Medford, MA
Judith C. Scott, PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston University, Boston, MA
Background/Purpose: Family-based violence, including intimate partner violence and child maltreatment, is underreported and a hidden problem in two of Boston’s Asian communities. Asian Family Services (AFS), a culturally-based community organization, provides prevention and intervention services to community residents, including those impacted by violence. The agency requested an evaluation to revise their goals and objectives while they develop their five-year strategic plan. This paper discusses best practices related to developing evaluations, agency culture, racial/ethnic culture, engagement, and collaboration. In particular, we highlight the use of a narrative approach, which relies on storytelling to capture the agency’s processes and successes to understand how AFS addresses family-based violence.

Methods: Twenty-two stakeholders, including agency staff, board members and funders (68% female; 73% Asian), participated in this mixed-methods evaluation. Using a narrative approach and the Five-Tiered Approach to Evaluation (Jacobs, 1988), we collected data through interviews, review of agency boilerplates and measures, narratives and meetings. Qualitative coding was developed using an emic approach and themes were identified. Data triangulation was conducted across qualitative and quantitative data sources. We focus on the evaluation’s approach and processes in this paper.  

Results: Collecting data using narratives allows for deep reflection from both storytellers and evaluators. For example, explicit discussions about family-based violence tend to be shunned in Asian communities and therefore, AFS does not explicitly discuss violence. However, analyses of narratives illuminated AFS’ efforts to address violence as well as captured the cultural challenges staff and clients face such as acculturation and stigma. Discussion with staff about narratives revealed that AFS incorporates education regarding mainstream norms for corporal punishment and mandatory vaccinations into parenting workshops. The narratives also revealed that AFS staff serve as cultural exchangers when supporting families involved in child welfare systems and/or victimized by intimate partner violence. Cultural exchangers are intermediaries who assist families and systems in understanding each other’s cultural norms, beliefs, and practices. We also used narratives to engage staff, understand the agency’s culture, and develop logic models. Other best practices emerged from this evaluation. Examining assumptions about agency terms such as community can result in identifying programmatic differences in the implementation of the agency’s goals. Engaging agencies in the development of a memorandum of understanding as well as having scheduled times to elicit feedback ensures that the evaluation is a collaborative process. Furthermore, intentional exchanges of evaluation and agency language allows evaluators and staff to clearly explain the importance and impact of their work.

Conclusion/Implications: These best practices used in evaluating a culturally-based organization not only ensure evaluators are collaborating with agencies but also may enable them to explore culturally-sensitive issues such as family-based violence in Asian communities. Storytelling may help evaluators capture the intangible aspects of agencies’ work as well as assist in designing quantitative approaches to measuring outcomes. In addition, narratives can also help staff clearly articulate the purpose of the evaluation and services provided, and how their work aligns with an agency’s vision.