We make multiculturalism a key dimension of mainstream design implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes. We also add value by providing specialist expertise to the multicultural sector.
Our Panel consists of two groups of experts. The first group is a collaboration of academics and practitioners from business, science, government, the not-for-profit sector and philanthropy, all of whom have extensive experience in evaluation, mixed methods social inquiry, the study of religion, interculturality, criminology, social cohesion, language policy in education and employment.
Sustainable employment in the migration context ensure migrants are able to participate economically which in turn ensures the success of the migration program and in turn the foundations of multiculturalism.
The economic benefits of migration to the Australian community is well documented and is often cited as a means to fill temporary skills gaps or manage long term nation building activities.
The efficient matching of skills and qualifications so that migrants can move quickly into employment skills shortages ensures that highly skilled individuals are not left in relatively low or unskilled jobs.
Human mobility, migration and cultural diversity: these are today’s critical issues for program evaluation. With the major shift in demographic composition of populations in the western world, a deeper and broader cultural understanding of personal characteristics, backgrounds, and belief systems is a must for evaluators and providers of human service programs.
Culturally responsive evaluation, realist evaluation, development evaluation and empowerment evaluation are effective approaches to designing and evaluating programs and services that target multicultural communities.
Diverse cultural perspectives toward establishing validity, evaluative understanding and judgements of programs targeted at multicultural communities are explicitly addressed by culturally responsive evaluation. In evaluation, validity is the most important construct. It references the accuracy and limits of understandings; it guides what can and cannot be appropriately concluded from evaluative inquiry. Multiculturally valid evaluations presume an understanding of culture and culturally based discrimination as well as the ability to identify appropriate and inappropriate considerations of cultural context in evaluation’s epistemological, methodological and theoretical foundations, professional practices and standards and guiding principles.
How can these approaches work with mainstream evaluation?
There are many different sources of values in any evaluation. In addition to that of the community and intended beneficiaries, there are mainstream community values, those of democratically elected representatives and those of funders to consider. Mainstream evaluation must be attuned to this diversity of values and generate information that is useful to many different stakeholders.
Most of what is important in human societies and in the lives of individuals is complex, contextual, and dynamic. No single social science methodology can capture the whole of human phenomena, experiences, and/or identities. When immigration and multicultural societies are added to the mix, the challenge becomes even more complex, contextual and dynamic.
Only a mixed methods approach to research and evaluation can capture a more wholistic, multi-dimensional picture of the immigration and immigrant experience. It is these multi-dimensions that give us a more effective means of processing a phenomenon with so many layers of contextual influences (culture, politics, values, wars).
Q. Why is a collaborative/multidisciplinary approach important to success?
Collaboration and multi-disciplinarity are often paired with a mixed methods approach, but they are not inherent or required components of a mixed methods approach. Collaboration is often connected to participatory social inquiry and multi-disciplinarity to our largest, most complex social ‘problems’.
In an evaluation of the immigrant or multicultural experience, collaboration needs to include immigrants as the primary source of information and data. Moreover, to ensure a thoughtful and accurate portrayal of immigration, stories must be drawn from lived experiences and authored by the immigrants themselves. Most immigrants have a unique story to tell: the difficult decision to leave their home country; the often treacherous journey to another country; adapting to the host community that may or may not be welcoming.
Similarly, using multiple disciplines as lenses through which to view and understand complex, important social phenomena, like immigration, makes sense. No single lens on social phenomena can adequately capture the complexity and contextuality of immigration. Often a thoroughly mixed methods study does draw on multiple disciplines to inform inquiry questions, relevant theories, instrument development, and more.
What we do know about violent extremism is that it is largely social in nature: it operates via peer networks preying upon the needs to belong, to be affirmed and to have a sense of purpose in life. There are no quick fixes or single solutions. The threat is not going to abate by itself, and the challenge remains, but building strong communities and helping troubled individuals, whether in fragile states or our own suburbs, is the one thing that we know does work.
Cognitive extremism generally manifests in black-and-white worldviews in which society is divided into right and wrong, good and evil, us and them. Any attempt to try and bridge these differences or engage in dialogue and cooperation is judged as a sign of weakness and error. Behavioural extremism, on the other hand, often manifests as political activism that shows scant regard for the rights of others. This leads to the classic extremist position of arguing the ends justify the means.
Narrative and belief are certainly important when it comes to violent extremism, but it is increasingly clear from researching violent extremist groups, and the people who are radicalised into them, that social networks and relationships precede full cognitive radicalisation. In other words, people are drawn into groups, often following the offer of friendship that starts with a conversation that occurs in an online chat room or on the sidelines of a public event. Once they identify with their new friends and community and feel that they belong, they begin to internalise the ideas of the group. This follows a pattern familiar in all forms of religious conversion, and is by no means necessarily connected with radicalisation into violence. What it does mean, however, is that even when people do not fully share violent extremist ideologies and values, they may still participate in associated activities or facilitate those who do.
Whilst strong and even radical belief systems and convictions are not in themselves a problem, the promotion of hatred, intolerance and sectarian sentiment is certainly problematic wherever it manifests. Understood in this way, it is not only violent extremism, narrowly defined, that is a problem and matter of vital concern, the issue is hateful extremism more broadly defined. At the same time, any form of violence, any dynamic that contributes to the use of violence, and the failure to prevent and resolve conflict must all be matters of concern.
Preventing and countering violent and hateful extremism depends upon building healthy social networks and peer associations that are inclusive, foster a sense of belonging and purpose and develop resilience.
A. The state of play and thinking in language policy and social cohesion studies is to stress facilitative processes. In our work we use a ‘metalogue’ to foster collective discussion and organise a shared concept among all participants of the problem area being addressed, and then tackle it from shared premises. This avoids the past practice of domination by researcher interests over community interests, that has plagued these fields of study, and also is more effective in producing durable solutions. Language policy is a critical element which is often overlooked by practitioners and even scholars and yet it is ubiquitous and important. People’s expressive abilities in spoken and written language is critical to settlement policy, economic success and public participation and yet the role of language is often taken for granted and overlooked.
Q. Why is a collaborative/multidisciplinary approach important to success?
A. Increased human mobility world wide requires multi-disciplinary collaboration to ensure language policy is not overlooked. We risk producing narrow language policy, without a collaborative approach. The real communication needs of a community can only be understood by that community and expressed by them in interaction with academic supporters and practitioners who will help them appropriate design programs.
Q. How does a multi-disciplinary collaboration benefit our clients?
A. A multi-disciplinary collaboration approach is beneficial to our clients because it is responsive to the complexity and actual felt needs of the community and therefore produce the best possible program designs.
Central to this team is a panel of lived-experience multicultural researchers and evaluators who speak a range of languages and dialects. In Australia, an intercultural space exists between the First Nation Australians, British colonialism and a mix of migrant cultures. Navigating this space takes the collaboration of a multidisciplinary team.
This combined expertise enables us to deliver culturally responsive end-to-end evaluations informed by mixed methods designs.