Indigenous Approaches to Stakeholder Engagement


Indigenous communities exist around the world and are present in the social and solidarity economy as impact investors, social innovators and entrepreneurs, target beneficiaries, and other types of stakeholders. These communities are important stakeholders, and their cultural context, worldviews, histories, and lived experiences should be explicitly incorporated into impact measurement and management in order to ensure meaningful and just participation. 

A key concept championed by EvalIndigenous is that impact measurement should be done “by us and for us,” meaning that any time an Indigenous population is involved in, or beneficiaries of, an impact investment or social business, impact measurement and management should be conducted using an Indigenous lens. 

Here’s how it works

Numerous Indigenous evaluation frameworks have been developed around the world for both specific and general use in Indigenous populations. These can be extended to impact measurement and management specifically. The first step is to identify which Indigenous populations must be included in a given impact measurement and management process, and what Indigenous evaluators and Indigenous evaluation frameworks already exist in that community. If none are apparent, EvalIndigenous states that individuals wanting to work with Indigenous peoples on evaluation (or impact measurement and management) should do the following:

  • Explicitly recognize and promote Indigenous rights to self-determination.
  • Explicitly recognize and promote the sovereignty and humanity of Indigenous peoples.
  • Fully engage Indigenous peoples from the beginning through to the end of an IMM process.
  • Engage in authentic relationships with Indigenous peoples.
  • Be clear and honest about the relationship Indigenous peoples can expect from the engagement.
  • Spend time learning about the specific lived Indigenous experiences of the relevant population.
  • Interrogate whether a given product, service, project, intervention, etc. was something the Indigenous peoples were involved in or consulted about.
  • Build the capacity of Indigenous peoples to conduct impact measurement and management. 

For a detailed description of how to engage with Indigenous communities when doing impact measurement and management, including a list of ten questions Indigenous communities

should ask evaluators (or whoever is conducting or commissioning impact measurement), see EvalIndigenous

While Indigenous stakeholder engagement is context-specific, similarities across many of the methods include dialogue, non-linear processes, and practices that acknowledge interconnected relationships between the self, the family, the community, and the environment. 

The benefit

By doing impact measurement and management in a culturally appropriate way, in partnership with Indigenous peoples, an impact investment or social enterprise can actively contribute to reconciliation and decolonization. When Indigenous people are the target consumers or beneficiaries of a business or investment, using Indigenous stakeholder engagement techniques will help improve the relevance and effectiveness of intended social and environmental impacts. 


Here are four examples of indigenous stakeholder engagement in IMM.

Please note that “evaluation” and “impact measurement and management” are used interchangeably in the examples below. 

Winnipeg Boldness Project
Note: The description of the WBP’s work below comes directly (quoted) from their website
In the case of The Winnipeg Boldness Project, we’re using tools and processes from the practice of social innovation to develop community-driven solutions to help children in Point Douglas succeed and thrive. While Point Douglas does face challenges, more importantly we know that the families that live here know what’s best for their children and know what they need to find solutions to this complex issue. That’s why, when beginning our work in the community, we spent an entire year speaking to residents, parents, volunteers, and leaders in the community in order to get to the bottom of the issue and build community-led solutions that will work for families.
Acting as our compass throughout this journey, we work with four guide groups comprised of local residents, volunteers, workers, executives, researchers, and knowledge keepers. These guide groups meet on a regular basis to provide community-based insight and feedback around our research and prototypes, while helping to maintain a strong community voice in all aspects of the project.
Through co-creating ideas alongside the local community, The Winnipeg Boldness Project has been developing and testing out prototypes since early 2015. These prototypes demonstrate proof of the possibilities for real change that exist in our neighbourhood, and when scaled, could lead to a dramatic shift in the way our systems work with and support families and children.
Indigenous Innovation InitiativeNote: The description of the Indigenous Innovation Initiative work comes directly (quoted) from their website
Indigenous Peoples have always been innovative. The very story of our survival demonstrates our ingenuity and resilience. In 2015, there was a re-awakening to Indigenous innovation, and First Nation, Inuit and Metis leaders and community members set out a plan to support Indigenous Peoples with a dedicated program to spark a new generation of Indigenous innovation in Canada. Supported by these Indigenous leaders, the McConnell Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada, the Indigenous Innovation Initiative was born. The purpose of the Initiative is to support and grow innovative First Nation, Inuit and Metis businesses and social enterprises from across Canada’s urban, rural, remote and Northern communities.
Through values of inclusion, self-determination, sustainability and creativity, the Indigenous Innovation Initiative enables First Nation, Inuit and Metis innovators and communities to identify and solve their own challenges, transform lives and drive inclusive growth and health through Indigenous innovation. Indigenous innovation is a new idea, program, product or service, or the clever modification of a current program, product or service, that is either designed, developed or invented, in whole or in part, by or for Indigenous Peoples and their communities. 
Role of community: To amplify and privilege the voice of community, we co-create our programs with First Nation, Inuit and Metis Peoples. For example, we have established reference groups to support the design and implementation of each program in a way that is relevant and responsive to community. This includes collaborating with community members to ensure the programs are based on the needs, priorities, contexts and lived experiences of the innovators, entrepreneurs and communities we aim to support.
Indigenous Innovation Council: To ensure we can meet the needs of the innovators, entrepreneurs and communities we aim to support, our initiative is deeply rooted in Indigenous values and wisdom and is built on a foundation of Indigenous ways of knowing and being. To do this right, we draw on the guidance of our Indigenous Innovation Council which is made up of remarkable First Nation, Inuit and Metis leaders, Elders and Knowledge Keepers with a strong commitment to community engagement and co-creation, and with expertise in innovation, impact investing and entrepreneurship.
Free Prior and Informed ConsentNote: The description of FPIC comes directly (quoted) from the FAO website and FPIC toolkit
In line with the international legal framework, FAO has developed a Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples that ensures the organization makes all due efforts to respect, include and promote indigenous issues in relevant work. The core principles of the policy are: self-determination; the respect for indigenous knowledge, cultures and traditional practices that contribute to sustainable and equitable development; and Free, Prior and Informed Consent. 
In October 2016, FAO launched the Free, Prior and Informed Consent Manual, a practical tool that provides information about FPIC and how to incorporate it into the design and implementation of any development project or programme. It outlines essential steps to follow along the lifecycle of a development project, from identifying which communities need to be consulted to sharing achievements after the project has been completed.
The six steps in an FPIC process are as follows:Identify the Indigenous Peoples’ concerns and their representatives.Document geographic and demographic information through participatory mapping.Design a participatory communication plan and carry out iterative discussions through which project information will be disclosed in a transparent way.Reach consent, document Indigenous Peoples’ needs that are to be included into the project, and agree on a feedback and complaints mechanism.Conduct participatory monitoring and evaluation of the agreement. Document lessons learned and disclose information about project achievements. 
Made in Africa Evaluation
Note: The description of Made in Africa Evaluation comes directly (quoted) from a paper in New Directions for Evaluation, titled “Conceptualizing Evaluation in African Contexts” written by Michael Gaotlhobogwe, Thenjiwe Emily Major, Setlhomo Koloi-Keaikitse, and Bagele Chilisa in 2018. 
Africa is a multilingual continent made up of multiple countries that contain diverse indigenous communities within those countries. Traditionally, African people have been evaluated through Western frameworks and understandings, not via African ways of producing knowledge. Made in Africa Evaluation is an approach to developing and conducting evaluation through an African worldview that focuses on African values, belief systems, customs, ways of knowing, and ways of constructing knowledge. 
Given the diversity of Indigenous peoples on the African continent, there is no one way to do African evaluation. However, all African evaluation should reflect the following:
Relational ontology – African ontology is based on multiple realities, both living and non-living. Evaluators need to understand that Africans have a relationship with the universe. There is connectedness between human beings and the universe, and this must be incorporated in evaluation methodologies. Evaluation concepts should be informed by multiple realities that African people accommodate.
Relational epistemology – African culture provides multiple ways of knowing. Knowledge is a com- munity property and does not belong to an individual. It is relational and is passed on from one generation to another through songs, stories, po- ems, proverbs, folklores, etc. It is important that researchers and evaluators gather first-hand literature from the communities. This type of knowledge emanates from the lived experiences and cultures of the communities.
Relational axiology – African ethics are based on the respect, reciprocity, responsibility to the other, and the rights of the researched. Africans emphasize the spirit of be- longing, togetherness, caring cooperation, and collaboration. Africans live in harmony with nature as they value both plants and animals equally. In conducting evaluation, it is important to take into consideration the val-ues that African people uphold. Also, it is important to reciprocate, give back to the community.
Relational methodology – Relational methodologies are integrative tools used in evaluation that are transformative and include Indigenous ways of collecting and interpreting data. These are methodologies that draw from Indigenous knowledge, histories, languages, metaphors, world views, philosophies, and experiences of former colonized and historically marginalized communities. The evaluator must critique, decolonize, and indigenize mainstream methodologies, and/or envision other ways of evaluation that are guided by the African world views. Evaluators may use methods such as talking circles that value togetherness. The talking circles encourage sharing of ideas; respect for each other’s ideas; value togetherness; and a continuous, unending compassion and love for one another. The circle also symbolizes equality of members in the circle. As an evaluator, when using the talking circle one acknowledges that the evaluator and the evaluated are equal, and both co-produce knowledge.
Learn More

Check out these websites and publications to learn more about the rich and diverse Indigenous frameworks for evaluation:


Johnson Research and the Waawiyeyaa Evaluation Tool

Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation Topical Interest Group at the American Evaluation Association

The Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation Special Issue: Evaluation in Indigenous Contexts

New Directions for Evaluation Special Issue: Indigenous Evaluation

Prepared by Courtney Bolinson, social impact measurement consultant. 

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