IPE TIG Week: Indigenous Evaluation and Learning Centers on the How by Dr. Gladys Rowe

Tansi! Greetings! My name is Dr. Gladys Rowe. I am Muskego Inninew (Swampy Cree) from Fox Lake Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba. I also hold relations with ancestors from England, Ireland, Norway, and Ukraine. I am currently a guest on the lands of the Suquamish and Duwamish Nations in Washington. I have been working in decolonial, Indigenist research, evaluation, and Indigenous innovation for over 15 years.

Indigenous evaluation practitioners, organizations, and communities are pushing back and holding space. Like the push back and resistance to research done upon and extracted from Indigenous peoples, we are beyond evaluation that is done upon Indigenous peoples, programs, and organizations. How are we doing this work of learning differently. We begin with Indigenous worldviews, understanding the connections between Indigenous evaluation and Indigenous sovereignty.

This post will share four key areas of design for Indigenous learning (evaluating), understanding that the how is often more critical than the what. As noted in the Na-gah mo Waasbishkizi Ojijaak Bimise Keetwaatino: Singing White Crane Flying North Gathering a Bundle for Indigenous Evaluation, the term evaluation connotes a judgment or value being placed on a person, program, or organization. Learning grounded in Indigenous worldviews reflects a reciprocal journey to understand the processes, resources, and structures that support all levels of transformation. Learning differently means that Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing to take the lead.

Lessons Learned

Where/how can this begin?

  1. Make explicit the Values and Guiding Principles in your framework

Use these to assess priorities, gather knowledge, develop your initiative, and make decisions. Core values are fundamental beliefs and guiding principles are statements that reflect your approach to doing the work. They are a “check-in” to ask: are the choices I’m making on activities, outcomes, learning questions, and knowledge gathering methods in alignment?

  1. Co-Create Accountabilities and Attend to Protocols

What does is look like to enact relational accountability, reciprocity, respect, and prioritizing community voice? An accountability framework connects to values and guiding principles:

  • To what individuals, groups, and organizations are you accountable? What does this look like?
  • Are there protocols for engaging with the community, knowledges, learning processes, or sharing?
  • How will an advisory group be engaged? For what purpose, who is represented, and the process for engagement? Co-create these expectations!
  • What about Indigenous data protocols and responsibilities? For example, OCAP. What will this look like?
  1. What are your Learning Cycles and Processes?

In the Winnipeg Boldness Project, we used a knowledge mobilization framework that outlined the steps we took in gathering data, making meaning of our learning, and adapting or revising our work or our pathway based on this assessment.

  • What process will you use to gather, assess, and review what you are learning?
  • Who will you include?
  • What will you do with what you are learning?
  1. Methods of Gathering

The Bundle for Indigenous Evaluation Report identifies methods congruent with Indigenous worldviews:

  • What could be useful in your context? 
  • What other methods would align with your values and guiding principles?
  • How can you create a space for stories, trust, and making meaning? Try incorporating activities such as beading, sewing, building, drawing, writing, and opportunity for laughter to nurture this space.

The work of Indigenous evaluation and learning is fundamentally different from evaluation on programs whose client bases are Indigenous peoples or Indigenous communities. This is more than incorporating a few Indigenous methods, like sharing circles into knowledge gathering. This is about a fundamental shift: enacting frameworks grounded in Indigenous worldviews, values, and principles. I hope these questions offered insights into how to begin, because how we begin is important.

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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