IPE TIG Week: Some Basic Guidelines for Evaluation with Indigenous Peoples by Art Hernandez

Hi, I’m Art Hernandez and I’m a Professor at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas.

Program evaluation can play a crucial role in assessing the effectiveness of initiatives aimed at Indigenous peoples in the USA. However, to create real change and pursue social justice, program evaluation must be approached with a focus on cultural responsiveness, equity, and the imperative of social justice.

Indigenous peoples in the USA have historically and continue to experience marginalization, cultural suppression, and socioeconomic disparities. Culturally responsive program evaluation methods ensure that assessment tools and frameworks incorporate Indigenous worldviews, cultural values, and ways of knowing. By centering the experiences and perspectives of Indigenous communities, evaluation can accurately and authentically measure program effectiveness and outcomes within the context of social justice and cultural equity. In particular, culturally responsive program evaluation actively involves Indigenous communities throughout the evaluation process, prioritizing their lived experience, expertise, knowledge, perspectives, and agency. This approach acknowledges community ownership, grounds relationships, and supports communities in actively participating in evaluation processes and decision-making. Essentially, culturally responsive evaluation honors and integrates Indigenous knowledge systems, including traditional practices, storytelling, and cultural values as valid sources of evidence. By doing so, evaluation practices can align with Indigenous cultural frameworks and promote social justice by accepting and valuing diverse ways of knowing.

Authentic, culturally responsive program evaluation is complex and challenging to achieve because it adopts holistic and intersectional perspectives to understand the authentic realities faced by Indigenous peoples. In design, implementation, analysis, and reporting, it recognizes and integrates the interconnectedness of cultural, social, economic, and environmental factors and strives to address the intersecting oppressions that hinder social justice and equitable outcomes. For evaluators, this requires (at a minimum) cultural knowledge, appreciation, and collaboration with and among funders, program designers and implementers, and Indigenous communities.

Culturally responsive program evaluation, grounded in the pursuit of social justice, is essential for honoring and respecting Indigenous peoples. By integrating Indigenous knowledge systems, building evaluation capacity within communities, adopting holistic and intersectional approaches, and collaborating for advocacy and policy change, program evaluation can become a powerful tool for dismantling systemic barriers and promoting social justice. Through meaningful community engagement and a commitment to equitable outcomes, program evaluation can contribute to a more just and equitable future for all by honoring the rights, cultures, and aspirations of Indigenous communities.

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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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