15 August 2016

Monitoring and Assessing Diversity Initiatives

At times throughout my (short) career as an anthropologist, I've struggled with answering the question of how would an anthropological stance/investigation/insight influence the bottom line?

This struggle, in my opinion, comes from the fact that what anthropologists (and other social scientists and researchers and practitioners of uneasily-definable issues...if that's a word) investigate can be difficult to define narrowly (or in a manner that suits a given succinct category) because of our holistic perspective and the nature of the material and our research questions themselves.

How, for example, can you quantify the usefulness of a support system or an absolute measure of one's feeling of belonging on campus?

In a recent article entitled Auditing Diversity, the author writes about the struggle to demonstrate effectiveness of diversity programs initiated in reaction to the growing discontent to considerations of "race" and race-relations on university and college campuses. The author writes about the reaction to a recent audit of Davenport University's last six years of diversity initiatives. Regarding the audit process itself, Richard J. Pappas, Davenport’s president, stated the following about the audit:

They’re not cheap, and it can be difficult for colleges to tell what, exactly, they’re getting for the money. Davenport’s audit took just over six months and cost $46,000, [..., and while] the findings weren’t earth-shattering, the assessment forced officials to be introspective about their commitment to diversity and to pinpoint which efforts to tackle first. 

In a recent workshop on leadership, I learned about the importance of monitoring and assessing 'how much one was able to move the dial' is imperative in order to gain traction, funding, and buy-in. When discussing the impact and importance of anthropological pursuits on the bottom line (a question that anthropologists must think more deeply about as we find work increasingly out/side of academic environments) we as anthropologists must learn how to articulate our findings an a consumable manner and perhaps, develop more tangible methods in which to measure the impact of our services (however imperfect this pursuit might be).