Indigenous communities have utilized evaluation practices to shape community development over many generations (USAI Evaluation Path, 2019). In the past, we collaborated with external consultants to look at the impacts of the programs offered in Friendship Centres. Through our valuable learnings from these experiences, combined with our developing internal capacity in evaluation, we decided to take full ownership and control of our evaluation initiatives.
Starting with program evaluations that were outlined in our funding agreements, we began to put our approaches to evaluation in action. We now lead the evaluation of the Masters of Social Work – Indigenous Trauma and Resiliency program, hosted at the University of Toronto. In response to the evolving evaluation landscape, and with a desire to continue to conduct Indigenous-led evaluations, we created dedicated roles for evaluation and performance measurement. Now, we are co-designing community-driven program evaluations with Friendship Centres, co-developing performance measurement frameworks which assess the work of Ontario-wide strategies, and we continue to build our reputation as a leader in Indigenous evaluation.
Approach to Evaluation
Our approach focuses on Indigenous evaluation approaches, practices, methodologies, and the culture-based understandings that have shaped them over generations. The approach is designed to showcase how the concepts of community-driven research (OFIFC, USAI Research Framework, 2012, 2016 2 ed.) and Indigenous evaluation approaches are deeply connected and have many interdisciplinary applications. The relationship between Indigenous research and evaluation are embedded in a variety of teachings shared with us by Elders and Knowledge Keepers in urban Indigenous communities across Ontario. These teachings, and the people who carry them, guided the development of our culturally grounded, trauma-informed and community-driven approach to evaluation, which is forthcoming.