Hawaiʻi-Pacific Evaluation Association Conference

The Hawaiʻi-Pacific Evaluation Association had its first In-Person conference since 2019. This year’s theme was “Hulihia: Transformative Ea Through Kuleana.” As much as themes are picked to be a common guide for its’ presenters and its’ participants, this particular theme seemed like a plea and demand for change. Change in the form of radical collaboration.

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is a process that involves the collection and analysis of  data to measure progress toward achievement of specific goals and objectives. This is a very basic definition of something we work to transform and develop internally. For grassroots communities in ecosystem and cultural restoration, monitoring is not a priority; doing the work is. When you are limited in time and resources it is difficult to focus on data collection. However, as we all grow in capacity to mālama Hawai’i we need to build objective ways to measure our work. But these factors, when action is place based should reflect the needs and observations of the communities that live in these places.  Additionally, traditional conservation measurements have often left out or physically excluded humanity, especially indigenous people as part of the conservation picture. This despite the fact that globally we as a community must now assess our collective impact on our world.  The need to be environmentally conscious and softer on our planet can no longer be isolated. At KUA we work to question these conservation norms and question the questions that are asked thanks to one of KUA’s founding members and evaluation expert, Dr. Debbie Gowensmith. We are thankful to her for always coming with a community/network specific approach challenging us to ask questions and self reflect on our own positionalities when it comes to entering each space.

Aunty Manulani Aluli Meyer expressed with a sense of urgency in a plenary panel how important it is that we as evaluators must evolve and ask better questions. Moving away from the status quo routineness of M&E and the belief that uniformity is validity. Meyer put this out there to all who attended which ranged from various stakeholders, evaluators and partners from Hawaiʻi’s Healthcare system, to Hawaiʻi’s Public School system, many who have the ability and kuleana to “contribute to the common good and advancement of a just and equitable society” (AEA, 2018, Guiding Principles).

Panels at this 1-day conference were packed with transformative ways that evaluators have collaborated with communities. It was a quick and inspiring look at some movers and shakers in this field who have made pivotal contributions to the evolution of M&E. Meyer left us with an impactful definition of ʻauamo kuleana. She defines it as collective transformation through individual excellence and vice versa, individual transformation through collective excellence. So in all the fields that you dwell and hold power let us ʻauamo kuleana, the next 400 years depends on it.

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