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AKEN Affiliate Week: Transforming Local and Indigenous Community Engaged Research and Evaluation Practices in Alaska by Diane Hirshberg

My name is Diane Hirshberg. I am the director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage. I am writing today from my home on the ancestral and unceded traditional lands of the Eklutna Dena’ina people.

In Alaska, as in many places, there is a robust discussion among researchers and local and Indigenous community members about how to transform research and evaluation practices to make them more reflective of and responsive to the communities with which and within which we work. And there are many resources to help evaluators and researchers think differently about the locus of power and control in these processes, in ways that can make the outcomes of this work more meaningful for all involved and, we hope, support the values of northern and Indigenous communities.

I am working to make sure that my research and evaluation practice reflects my commitment to put the voices of communities at the forefront of research and evaluation processes. However, I often struggle to do so as a researcher reliant on external funding by agencies who don’t always respect the needed processes and timelines to make this work. But pressure is being applied to federal funders to change how they approach research and evaluation in the Arctic, and Indigenous colleagues and organizations are providing guidance for how all of us can do our work better.

Rad Resources

Several recent reports and articles provide excellent principles and guidelines on how to collaborate respectfully and appropriately with Indigenous communities, and I find these immensely helpful in my work. The first of these is the Ethical and Equitable Engagement Synthesis Report from the Inuit Circumpolar Council (2021), which ICC describes as “ A collection of Inuit rules, guidelines, protocols, and values for the engagement of Inuit Communities and Indigenous Knowledge from Across Inuit Nunaat.”

I also find David-Chavez and Gavin’s 2018 article titled “A global assessment of Indigenous community engagement in climate research” useful in helping me think about what it means to truly engage with Indigenous communities in ways that are more meaningful than consultations or even collaborations where the authority still rests with the research.

Finally, Ellam Yua, Raymond-Yakoubian, Aluaq Daniel and Behe just released a new publication updating work I’ve been using for a while, titled “A framework for co-production of knowledge in the context of Arctic research: Negeqlikacaarni kangingnaulriani ayuqenrilnguut piyaraitgun kangingnauryararkat”. It provides guidance and training on a co-production of knowledge approach to research in the Arctic.

These resources are all open access and are worth reading regardless of whether you are working in the Arctic or in any local or Indigenous community, to help us reframe how we do our work in ways that value multiple knowledge systems and create inclusive research and evaluation projects that result in meaningful and impactful outcomes.


Dominique M David-Chavez and Michael C Gavin 2018 Environ. Res. Lett. 13 123005

Ellam Yua, J. Raymond-Yakoubian, R. Aluaq Daniel. and C. Behe. 2022. A framework for co-production of knowledge in the context of Arctic research. Ecology and Society 27(1):34. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-12960-270134

Inuit Circumpolar Council. 2021. Ethical and Equitable Engagement Workshop Series Summary Report. International.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Alaska Evaluation Network (AKEN) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from AKEN members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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