Hi! We are Morgan J Curtis (independent consultant) and Strong Oak Lafebvre (executive director of Visioning BEAR Circle Intertribal Coalition). Along with Patrick Lemmon (independent consultant), we have the good fortune of serving as the evaluation team for the Walking in Balance (WIB) initiative.
WIB is an innovative approach to violence prevention that focuses on 12 important indigenous values that encourage better harmony with other people and the land. The primary component of WIB is a 13-session curriculum that is built on a Circle Process and that, with some adaptations, can be focused on different populations. The Circle Process involves storytelling and sharing by all participants, including the Circle Keeper who serves to move the conversation forward. A teaching team of four, seated in the four directions, diminishes the role of a single expert and promotes Circle members talking with each other rather than to the Circle Keeper.
Lessons Learned: This program presents many exciting evaluation opportunities and challenges. One of the challenges is ensuring that the evaluation is both culturally responsive and methodologically sound. As part of this challenge, all members of the evaluation team are located in different cities and the evaluation consultants have all been white folks. This process has included much trial and error in our collaborative process and in the evaluation methodologies themselves. The team wanted to design an evaluation that aligned with the program’s principles and also integrated into the circle process as seamlessly as possible. We currently have a pre and post question for each session; participants write their answers on notecards and share aloud with the circle, which flows well with the storytelling focus of the circles. Additional questions at the beginning and end of the Circle invite participants to share aloud how each session transformed them and ways continued engagement in the Circle impacts their lives. We capture responses from all parties to track how the Circle Process transforms both the teaching team and participants. The VBCIC teaching team loves the seamless nature of the evaluation process and finds that checking in about what happens between sessions captures changes in behavior based on learning directly linked to Circle teachings.
Hot Tip: Listening plays a key role in both the Circle Process itself and in developing the evaluation. We have established a process of following the lead of the Visioning BEAR team both by listening intently to their struggles and hopes and also by offering options for how to tweak the evaluation. They move forward with what feels right to them and report back to us. Then, we keep tweaking. We are working to make the data analysis and interpretation processes more collaborative as we move forward, too.
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