This is an Eval Central archive copy, find the original at evalacademy.com.
This article is rated as:
While looking for my next audiobook, I came across Gladys Rowe’s podcast, Indigenous Insights: An Evaluation Podcast and an Indigenous perspective on evaluation piqued my interest. The podcast is available on Spotify, Audible, and on her website gladysrowe.com. Rowe is a member of Fox Lake Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba and holds a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Manitoba. For further information on Rowe check out her bio on her website.
If you are hoping to get a step-by-step process on how to do Indigenous evaluation, this is not the podcast for you. The episodes are more about experiences in doing Indigenous evaluation than a process to follow. It is about what each guest has learned in their journey. It is more akin to a learning circle where you are listening to an elder share their experiences and you are expected to reflect on it and find your own learnings. This aligns with Rowe’s aim for this podcast, to provide a space for those in Indigenous evaluation to learn from one another and to each build our own Indigenous evaluation bundle. I think the learning circle style furthers Rowe’s desire to elevate Indigenous voice and experience as I found this type of learning common when participating in Indigenous teachings.
If you are looking for somewhere to start to get your feet wet in Indigenous evaluation, this might be a good place. The podcasts are easy to follow. I found the storytelling format to be engaging. The sound quality is consistent so the speakers can be heard throughout. This is also not a podcast you would need to listen to most of the episodes in order, so you could jump around to the guests you would find most interesting.
On each episode, she talks with a different researcher or evaluation practitioner about their experiences in Indigenous evaluation. Most of the episodes are approximately 40-50 minutes long, during which she hosts a discussion with one or two guests. The first episode is the shortest of the series as it serves as an introduction to who Rowe is and the aim for the podcast series.
I like how Rowe positions Indigenous evaluation in episode one. She describes Indigenous evaluation as being grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing. “The projects, questions, methods, and meaning making are relational, iterative, and lived deeply within our hearts and spirits.” She sees Indigenous evaluation being more than just bringing methodologies and tools to complete this work but needing to bring her whole self. I found bringing my authentic, whole self into Indigenous work is needed. Through my experiences with Indigenous organizations, I have found that if you didn’t come with your authentic self, you won’t be trusted or ever fully accepted by the community.
Rowe also emphasized the need for evaluation to ensure Indigenous community priorities are central and the “wisdom of those with lived experience” are highlighted. I found that Bremner, her first guest in episode two, further expands on these ideas in episode two and makes some compelling points through his use of stories and examples.
In just the first couple episodes, you can get a feel for what the flow may look like for this series. In the first episode, Rowe talks about her relationship to the land, connection to the Indigenous community, her educational and work background, and her learnings in conducting Indigenous evaluation. A similar flow continued in the next episode with Larry Bremner. This is like providing a personal land acknowledgement which includes the individual’s relation to the land, the historical people who lived on the land, and who their own ancestors are. If you are interested in developing your own land acknowledgement you could use some of the format found in the introductions of these podcasts or the University of Saskatchewan has their own video series of how to create one.
In episode two, Larry Bremner, through his use of stories, discussed how evaluation needs to come from the community and benefit that community. He described Indigenous evaluation as being about “social, environmental, and economic justice.” For evaluation to benefit the Indigenous community, he saw the need for the evaluation and its priorities to be set by the community. Frequently evaluation was done by external bodies and did not reflect the priorities or realities of the community. Therefore, many of these evaluations had no lasting effect on the community. The benefits for the community need to be first and foremost in the evaluation. I found it interesting that he then linked the use of evaluation to further colonize Indigenous peoples which does help explain why there is a lack of trust in evaluation processes.
Part of Bremner’s evaluation experience related to the importance of the evaluator as an embedded member of the community, in this way, the evaluator becomes part of the story. The evaluator is an active participant of the community and is a trusted member of the community. To me, this relates back to Rowe’s comments about bringing your whole self into the work. I have seen how Indigenous people will not trust and accept someone into their community who is seen as fake. A program can be successful, or not, based on who the facilitator is and what they bring of themselves to the project. If the evaluator isn’t genuine, it will be seen, and community members will not engage with that person.
By the evaluator being part of the community, the evaluator knows which ceremonies it is appropriate to participate in and when not to. Through this participation and observation, key findings can be witnessed that would never show up through a questionnaire. Bremner did give an example of a ceremony he didn’t participate in but could observe the outcome of that ceremony through the conversation with the participant later. Again, the participant only shared this knowledge because he was a trusted part of the community.
Bremner provides some insight into the concept of knowledge ownership, where the owner is credited for that knowledge. He saw the other side to that being where knowledge is taken and used elsewhere without giving credit to those who originally gave it. I found it interesting that he connected this to the appropriation of Indigenous knowledge. Ultimately, I believe this is frequently the concern with evaluations that happen in Indigenous communities.
There are other learnings you could glean from Bremner’s stories. These are just a few of the topics he discussed.
Overall, I found these episodes to be packed with ideas and concepts that could further influence how anyone might approach evaluation or really any work within Indigenous communities.