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IPE TIG Week: Meaningful Community Involvement in Indigenous Evaluation Projects: The Power of Guide Groups and Reciprocity in Action by Gladys Rowe

Hello everyone! I’m Gladys Rowe, and the work that I support is deeply involved in evaluation projects with a focus on supporting initiatives especially in Indigenous contexts. Today, I aim to share a learning about the transformative role of guide groups in fostering community involvement, priority setting, and direction in Indigenous evaluation projects using The Winnipeg Boldness Project as an exemplar.

The Winnipeg Boldness Project is a community-driven initiative that has been built upon a profound set of Indigenous research and evaluation principles. These principles ensure community control over knowledge production activities, a respect for individuals and the community, a participatory method of engagement, joint co-learning processes, a balance between research, evaluation, and action, and reciprocity and responsibility. This community control ensures that the research and evaluation is grounded in the needs and perspectives of the community it seeks to serve.

Promising Practices in Community Driven Research

Formed in November 2014, the Parent Guide Group (PGG) evolved to play a significant role in the project’s development. From identifying gaps and barriers to co-designing arts-based research projects, the PGG ensures that diverse voices guide the project’s direction. Here is what the PGG was involved with:

  1. Identifying Gaps and Barriers: In its inception, the PGG played an instrumental role in deciphering the challenges families in Point Douglas faced. They not only identified service gaps but also brought to light barriers that impacted family well-being.
  2. Contributing to Proofs of Possibilities: The PGG’s involvement was paramount in developing the Proofs of Possibilities (strengths-based solutions to support families in their community). They provided tangible feedback and direction, ensuring the project’s strategies were well-aligned with community needs.
  3. Building Research and Evaluation Capacity: The PGG members underwent training to equip themselves with essential research skills. This empowered them to become researchers for the project, offering an intimate understanding of the community’s challenges and strengths.
  4. Developing and Testing Research Tools: The PGG was consistently involved in fine-tuning research methodologies. One notable method they helped refine was “journey mapping,” which effectively captured the complexities faced by community members navigating various systems.
  5. Co-designing Arts-Based Research Projects: Arts-based research became a powerful tool in engaging the PGG. They co-designed and co-facilitated projects like PhotoVoice and Tile Mosaic, ensuring these artistic endeavors captured genuine community voices.
  6. Validating and Mobilizing Knowledge: PGG members were the torchbearers of the project in the larger community. They spearheaded outreach initiatives, ensuring the knowledge gathered was shared and validated at various community events.

Rad Resource:

To learn more about the principles, structure, and community-driven approach using Guide Groups, check out this resource.

Cool Trick:

Formation of Guide Groups A standout feature of The Winnipeg Boldness Project is the formation of Guide Groups. These groups have been pivotal in steering the project, ensuring it remains rooted in community needs. There are four active Guide Groups, each playing a distinct role:

  • Parent and Caregiver Guide Group: Comprising parents and caregivers from the Point Douglas neighbourhood.
  • Community Leadership Guide Group: Consisting of leaders with extensive experience serving families in Point Douglas.
  • Research & Evaluation Guide Group: Made up of senior academic and Indigenous researchers in Manitoba.
  • Traditional Knowledge Keepers Guide Group: Comprising Elders and Knowledge Keepers as cultural advisors.

The PGG’s active involvement reiterates the importance of community-driven leadership. They aren’t mere participants but are co-pilots, steering the project towards genuine community needs. Their engagement underscores the essence of meaningful community involvement: it’s about listening, valuing, and incorporating the insights of those you aim to serve.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation (IPE) TIG week. All posts this week are contributed by members of the IPE Topical Interest Group. 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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