The program evaluation research underscored the need for systemic changes in the ways educational institutions and policy makers conceptualize:
Reciprocally Guided Partnerships
The most salient characteristics of the partnerships between communities and university representatives has been that the partners mobilize around a specific, agreed-upon goal -- strengthening community capacity to meet the needs of children and families -- and the assumption that no partner has a more legitimate claim to 'truths' or the 'best practices' for achieving this goal. In the program evaluation, community members expressed their appreciation that the university-based partners did not behave as ultimate authorities on what should be taught or present themselves as 'experts' on child care and development. Rather, the university-based partners moved out of the driver's seat so that the community partners could determine the desired goals and themes for the training through a participatory process. Their overwhelming emphasis centered on themes of trust, reciprocity, mutual learning, and sharing knowledge. Community-based administrators who contributed to program evaluation emphasized that for genuine partnership between the university and the students' communities to exist, First Nations people themselves must have a place at the table -- to speak about their traditions, values and practices on children's care and development.
In earlier, formative evaluations, the stance of the partners at the outset of each program was described as 'all-ways respectful.' The evaluation research yielded rich descriptions of how this mutual respect grew and was manifested. Adapting a term suggested in sociocultural analyses of development, the partnerships grew through an ongoing process of reciprocally guided participation in a mutually valued, sociocultural activity. For us at the university, there were new learnings with each new partnership about how to act in ways that would support the community's identified goals for capacity building. Similarly, each community had unique requirements and styles of partnering, as well as different ways of understanding the university's roles and resources. Accountability in the partnerships was less about the content of the training program and more about the process of the engagement.