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Independent Consulting (IC) TIG Week: Amplifying Indigenous Voices: Navigating the Evaluation Independence Consulting Terrain in Canada by Kim van der Woerd, Kylee Swift, and Billie Joe Rogers

Hi, we are Kim van der Woerd (‘Namgis First Nation) and Sofia Vitalis (Settler Latina), Kylee Swift (Métis) and Billie Joe Rogers (Aamjiwnaang First Nation), owners of the Reciprocal Consulting Inc (RCI) in Canada. RCI was founded in 2003. We have worked predominantly with Indigenous communities throughout Canada. We are committed to justice and equity through the Reconciliation movement in Canada, and actively involved in creating a paradigm shift for our field of evaluation.

For Indigenous consulting firms navigating Canada’s predominantly white evaluation consulting  environment, the journey includes unique challenges and opportunities for amplifying voices of our communities and families. We will explore the landscape from our firms’ experience:

  1. Systemic Barriers: Indigenous firms face systemic barriers such as funding disparities, limited access to networks, and discrimination, hindering their ability to compete on equal footing with non-Indigenous counterparts.
  2. Tokenization: There is a risk of tokenization, where Indigenous firms are hired to fulfill diversity requirements, rather than being valued for their expertise and contributions. As an independent firm, we are challenging the RFP processes with our friends at Emergence Collective, to ensure equity and transformation. One way to do this is ensure parameters for meaningful partnerships with Indigenous firms are articulated
  3. Network Disparities: Challenges in accessing professional networks dominated by non-Indigenous individuals can limit collaboration opportunities and hinder business growth. Indigenous people, and specifically Indigenous women are not often invited to decision making tables, this is why we always encourage board and governance work for our staff to learn how hidden systems work
  4. Cultural Insensitivity (e.g., Epistemic Racism): Indigenous firms like ourselves, encounter cultural insensitivity or ignorance in the ecosystem, leading to harm.
  5. Inequitable Risk: As a smaller Indigenous women-owned firm, we face heightened risks (e.g., reputation, business flow, safety) when speaking out against injustice, compared to larger, whiter firms. Allyship is crucial. We invite our partners to stand with us and share their power


  1. Lived Expertise: being an Independent Consulting firm gives our team the space to bring our ancestral knowledge, cultural insights, and community connections to the forefront, enriching projects with holistic approaches rooted in Indigenous ways of knowing. 
  2. Community led Solutions: when community voice is amplified, we have the opportunity to embed cultural and historical nuances to create tailored strategies that resonate with Indigenous clients and stakeholders, fostering genuine engagement and sustainable outcomes.
  3. Representation and Empowerment: Indigenous firms serve as visible examples of Indigenous entrepreneurship, inspiring Indigenous youth and fostering community pride by carving out spaces within the business world where Indigenous voices are heard and respected.
  4. Reconciliation in Action: By prioritizing Indigenous partnerships and projects, Indigenous firms contribute to the reconciliation process, fostering truth telling, and promoting economic justice within Indigenous communities.

Rad Resources

The American Evaluation Association is hosting IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our IC TIG 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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