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Among the many organizations using their own adaptation of empowerment evaluation is the First Nations Development Institute. The Institute was founded in 1980 to help Native Americans build sound, sustainable reservation economies. First Nations helps tribal members mobilize enterprises that are reform-minded, culturally suitable and economically doable. Its strategy coordinates local grassroots projects with national program and policy development initiatives to build capacity for self-reliant reservation economies.

According to Rebecca Adamson, President of First Nations, the staff did not set out to undertake an evaluation; rather they wanted to find a means of harnessing the energies of their staff members. They realized that many of the traditional evaluation approaches would not work in their organization with its particular Native American—and eminently spiritual—world view.

To create the evaluation framework, First Nations adapted its principles of development to include the culture of the organization, the organization as a community, the people of the organization, and the organization's mission. In the words of Rebecca Adamson, “Our view of evaluation goes beyond grading performance to focus on the development of our people. Improvement and motivation come from within. It cannot be done to people, or for people, but must come from people. A first step in empowerment is recognizing that your values, belief system, and traditional knowledge are valid and important. This is a crucial understanding within our definition of evaluation. The evaluation framework is, therefore, only a guide, a framework, which can be used by individuals, colleagues, and supervisors to develop their own measure and indicators of success and accomplishment.”

As a result of their empowerment evaluation, several staff began volunteering for the first time at the local women's abuse center, literacy project, and free clinic. The office initiated several campaigns for the Red Cross, local school computers, and the city's homeless shelter. A renewed appreciation for serving people showed strongly among individual staff members and collectively among First Nations. In addition, other staff recommitted their time and resources to their favorite charities.

For additional information, contact:

First Nations Development Institute
The Stores Building
11917 Main Street
Fredericksburg, VA 22408
Tel: 540-371-5615
Fax: 540-371-3505

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