Inclusive System Evaluation for Gender, Environments, and Marginalized Voices (ISE4GEMs)
Inclusive Systemic Evaluation is an evaluation approach created in partnership with UN Women in 2018 that can be used as a stand-alone evaluation method or be incorporated into other evaluation methodologies. ISE4GEMs supports the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by taking a complex and intersectional approach to describe the problem and conduct an analysis using three initial dimensions: gender equality, environments (natural and built) impact, and inclusion of marginalized voices (referred to as the GEMs).
The UN’s SDGs are the global guide for creating a better and more sustainable future that addresses our planet’s current issues. Our planet is currently under duress with multiple issues related to climate change, inequality, poverty, and injustice. Each of the 17 SDGs are interconnected and cannot be addressed in isolation. The SDG framework recognises the complexity of the problems we need to address. It is against this backdrop, that Ethos of Engagement developed the ISE4GEMs framework to support our work.
It is important to understand the intersectional nature of the GEMs framework. While we acknowledge the three dimensions separately, GEMs intersect one another and are expressed at different magnitudes. Not all women experience the same oppression, not all members of a marginalized group experience the same marginalization, and not all aspects of the environment and being harmed and advocated for at the same rates.
Issues of Power and Oppression
Issues of Power and oppression take hold when the stakeholders of development are made up of the elite few. The GEMs framework encourages evaluators to make room for those that have been denied a “seat at the table” by the previous system.
The GEMs framework prioritizes inclusivity and representation for those impacted by development, whether they be living or not. Those that are marginalized must be sought out and advocated for. Participation must be encouraged and the inability to participate must be compensated for. An all inclusive system that acknowledges the limitations of its stakeholders and adjusts to fit their needs is what the GEMs framework strives to enact.
Not only must an evaluator have a firm grasp on the current climate, but also on the culture, history, and societal expectations on the individuals of the given area in order to affect positive change. While it is impossible to understand a system in its entirety, the most comprehensive knowledge comes from a well-rounded representation, acknowledgment of our own preconceived notions, and the ability to develop a system that can adjust to feedback. If we ignore the context of the region we impose our own ideologies onto the system of development. It is not our job to shape the culture, it is our job to work within the culture to create a better system.
When considering marginalized voices, it is less intuitive to consider nonhumans. Animals, plants, and other existing systems all have to be considered and accounted for, and if not we must justify their exclusion and prepare for the possible emergence of that exclusion. Governmental systems, preservation efforts, cultural entities, ecosystems, existing local or federal programs. The decision may be made to exclude these voices, but they must be acknowledged.
The ISE4GEMs Process
The Guide has two key parts:
Part A - Practitioner Theory - of the ISE4GEMs guide hones in on the theoretical concepts that support our framework. Concepts such as systems thinking, intersectionality, complexity, and feedback are addressed.
Part B - Practitioner Approach - describes step-by-step evaluation phases depicting planning and design, data collection, data analysis and reporting of evaluation practice. These methods can be followed systematically or used selectively to fit the needs of the project involved. Each chapter (or phase of evaluation) represents cycles of activity that can be repeated and revisited in an iterative and analytical way.
Boundary setting and critique is critical to the approach. Practitioners are guided to define the boundaries of the relevant systems, and where these overlap and interact. Mapping these systems and boundaries builds an understanding of the complexity of the problem issue and points of leverage for intervention and change.