RT&C Week: Relationships and Reflective Practice by Trilby Smith & Kris Archie

Hi, we’re Kris Archie and Trilby Smith. Kris is the CEO of The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples, and Trilby is an independent evaluator. We met while working on an initiative called Fostering Change, and have developed a deep working relationship and friendship over the past five years. Gratitude goes to Libby Smith for the invitation to find a writing partner who has taught you something about relationship, trust, and connection in your professional life. We have learned a lot from each other about all of these things (and much more).  

Our approach to writing this blog was to host a reflective practice session for ourselves. One thing we share is a love of good questions! Trilby sent the following two questions to Kris as a way to get the ball rolling…

  • How do you understand the role of relationships (and trust and connection) in relation to learning and evaluation? 
  • As someone who works to try and shift systems of power, what role do you see for evaluation and learning in that power-shifting work? How can working in deep relationship support this power-shifting work? 

This led to a rich discussion that won’t fit into one post, so we’ll focus on sharing some lessons we’ve learned. 

Lesson Learned: Until we develop a relationship with ourselves, we cannot develop relationships with others. As an Indigenous woman, Kris experienced evaluation as extractive and shaped by worldviews that didn’t see her a whole person, but more as a statistic. It was her development of a relationship with herself and subsequently with others that helped her breakthrough these perceptions. Trilby, a white, Jewish woman, educated in traditional, western research and evaluation methods, has been on her own path to develop a relationship with herself that informs how she develops relationships with others. All of her evaluation work is done collaboratively because she understands both the limitations and contributions of her own experiences and perspectives (begin at 23:45).  

Lesson Learned: Relationships are the linchpin for deep, lasting and successful learning and evaluation work, and power-shifting work. Kris says that it is the relationships between people that uphold or dismantle a system. Relationships bring a system from mechanistic to living, which is the shift that Kris is working towards. Both of us see a need for people to be very specific about how their practices align with their words. How will your practices breathe life into a system?     

Lesson Learned: When we thought about specific learning and evaluation tools that support relationship and power-shifting work, we landed on reflective practice. We want to highlight the critical importance of slowing down (push back against urgency) and putting in place reflective practices. Somatic experiences and mental activation support integration, so reflecting in ways that activate your body, and not just your mind, are more likely to lead to a change in behaviour. Tools such as Head, Heart, Hands (or feet), workbooks that incorporate drawing, or juicy prompt questions can all support this practice.  

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.

3 thoughts on “RT&C Week: Relationships and Reflective Practice by Trilby Smith & Kris Archie”

  1. Hi Kris & Trilby! 

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the importance of relationships and reflective practice, as I found them insightful and authentic. I am a Queens University student in my Master of Education who is new to the study of Evaluation. I found your good questions and lessons learned extremely valuable and thought provoking as I embark on my own evaluation journey.   

    I currently am teaching high school English Language Arts and was intrigued by your approach of hosting a reflective practice session for yourselves to speak. As I become more acquainted with the realms of Evaluation, adding opportunities for students to reflect on their practice by providing good questions for critical thinking and discussing to facilitate relationship building is very important. I look forward to implementing these sessions in my classroom! 

    Your first lesson – the importance of knowing our identity in order to foster relationships with others, I believe should be central to all evaluation. In order to provide genuine evaluation, one must develop an understanding of oneself and as you stated, which involves breaking down initial perceptions of one another by simply knowing ourselves.  

    Moving forward in my evaluation endeavors, I am encouraged, challenged and motivated by your question in lesson two – “How will your practices breathe life into a system?” This left me further contemplating how I will be able to effectively implement this idea to change and influence my own practice because there truly is “a need for people to be very specific about how their practices align with their words.” 

    I appreciate your response and contribution to the evaluation community!  

    All the best,  



    Très intéressant,
    Par contre, un peu plus de détails permettrait de mieux comprendre votre démarche et les leçons apprises.


    Très intéressant,
    Par contre, un peu plus détails permettrait de mieux comprendre votre approche et les leçons apprises.


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