RT&C Week: A Week of Relationship, Trust, & Connection by Libby Smith & Deven Wisner

Hi! We are Libby Smith and Deven Wisner. On the final day of #Eval19 I (Libby) conceived this week of posts, six days of reflections on the role of relationship, trust, & connection in our field. Throughout the conference I was moved by the way these themes were emerging. I was attuned to it by the opening keynote comments offered by Thorne & Wakinyan LaPointe. Wakinyan spoke of the Lakota concept Mitákuye Oyás’in. 

Wakinyan said the English words for this are “relatedness, the making of relatives, a deeper connection”. This distinction was noted, “there are partnerships, but partnerships often disintegrate; relatives, those last a lifetime, we need those meaningful and lasting relationships for meaningful and lasting plans”. Wakinyan went on to call it an “award winning strategy for a better tomorrow”.

I invited AZENet President, Founder of Viable Insights, good friend, and a member of my evaluation family, Deven Wisner to share his thoughts on a question we conceived together. Together, with Tiffany Smith, we started Radical (Re)Imagining, where we use reflective practice to reimagine who we can be in this field of evaluation. 

As he and I talked about this post and re-watched the LaPointe brothers speech, we landed on the question, “What would our work look like if we put relatedness in the driver’s seat all the time”?

Deven shared his Lessons Learned with me:

Putting love and relationships first has meant letting go of traditional Western outcomes for a meeting. Instead, creating space to invest in the people — oftentimes resulting in supporting, sharing, and even unintentional brainstorming.

This has been transformative, and Charnita Arora’s Tedx Talk, The Missing Piece in Our Relationship, summarizes this for me: “…you open up an entire space of perceptions that you might not have realized.” For me (Deven), it has been establishing a group of critical friends, lending perspectives, and embarking on initiatives like Radical Reimagining. But I also needed to be present, to set aside my busyness and give my full attention to people without expectation. 

Similarly, as President of the Arizona Evaluation Network, I felt this need to revisit “the why” of our network — taking time to learn about each other, what each one of us needs, and how we can be supportive through a turbulent year. It became abundantly clear that people were seeking love, empathy, and belongingness. They were looking for relationships. Our refocus has led to knowledge sharing sessions, socials, and other ways of connecting people. It’s setting the platform for something more than a means to an end; we’re cultivating long-lasting relationships where people can be fully human with one another.

I (Libby) invite you to visit us at Radical (Re)Imagining and in the spirit of our work there, tell us your answer to the question “What would our work look like if we put relatedness in the driver’s seat all the time”? in the comments below. 

I’ll finish by offering love & gratitude to this week’s authors, each is a close relation in my evaluation family. I hope you find joy & love in abundance this week. 

This week, we’re diving into issues of Relationship, Trust, & Connection (RTC) with reflections on the roles they play in evaluation. 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.

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