Storytelling is an important aspect of Indigenous evaluation. Stories “support the interpretation of the data” and stories are a traditional way of sharing what does and does not work (Tribal Evaluation Workgroup, 2013, p. 2). Stories allow participants to provide context to their experience. By incorporating stories into evaluation, participants are able to reflect on the relationship of activities to the anticipated outcomes or goals of their work (LaFrance and Nichols, 2009).
The Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TECs) and the Network Coordinating Center (NCC) participate annually in a photo narrative project (a process similar to PhotoVoice). A brief narrative and 1-2 photos are submitted in response to the five Tribal Epidemiology Center Public Health Infrastructure (TECPHI) Program evaluation questions. The photo narratives are visualizations of TEC and NCC experiences in changes of capacity, infrastructure, and sustainability. They help “fill gaps” and provide context to performance measure data.
Year 3 saw enormous advances for TECs and all TECs made significant progress in answering the TECPHI Program evaluation questions. TECs have increased their ability to collect and monitor data with continued growth of TEC staff and amplified knowledge through a variety of trainings. Diverse partnerships, both internally and externally, were established even while navigating the challenges of working virtually through a variety of platforms. The TECs were able to access more and better quality data to support health prioritization decision-making for T/TO/UIOs and COVID-19 response efforts. The TECs leveraged communication and marketing strategies to expand the reach of health related data and information and hugely increased production of communication materials to share with Tribal partners. The TECs continued to refine processes to deliver exemplary technical assistance and customer service. And finally, the TECs were nimble and flexible, and quickly able to expand skills to meet the immediate needs of their T/TO/UIOs during COVID-19 pandemic, further illustrating an answer to the question “What can TECs do now that they could not do before?” Special thanks to the Urban Indian Health Institute for their insight and advice. The TECPHI Program photo narrative project was inspired by the community participatory evaluation approach used with their awardees.
– LaFrance, J., & Nichols, R. (2009). Indigenous evaluation framework: Telling our story in our place and time. Alexandria, VA: American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).
– Tribal Evaluation Workgroup. (2013). A Roadmap for Collaborative and Effective Evaluation in Tribal Communities. Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.