A cultural protocol for evaluation

This resource explores important dimensions of cultural competency in evaluation. It focuses on cross-cultural understanding and culturally-appropriate attitudes and approaches.

This resource and the following information was contributed to BetterEvaluation by Alison Rogers. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the content in this document may contain images and references to deceased persons.

Authors and their affiliation

Madeleine Bower, Cathy Malla, Sharon Manhire and Alison Rogers from The Fred Hollows Foundation. www.hollows.org.

In collaboration with Deborah Rhodes – Leadership Strategies www.leadershipstrategies.com.au

Designer Elizabeth Cook elizabethjcook@optusnet.com.au

Key features of A cultural protocol for evaluation

In a cross-cultural setting, any evaluation activity must not only involve team members who understand the context but be approved, guided, directed and implemented by the program team to ensure culturally appropriate, meaningful and useful findings.1,2

This guide was developed for those who are involved with evaluation-related activities with The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Indigenous Australia Program (IAP). The purpose is to assist internal staff and external evaluation consultants to ensure that activities are undertaken with the appropriate respect for, and participation of, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and communities. This protocol was developed incorporating internal staff knowledge and experience, as well as Australian and international evaluation and research approaches to working with Indigenous people and communities. 

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

The resource has several elements and users may select one or more of the elements to inform or support their understanding, approaches and processes in cross-cultural evaluations. This guidance is intended to complement other guidance for IAP staff and professional evaluators, such as those on ethics, approaches, selection of tools and questions and reporting. In the Indigenous Australian context, it is important that this protocol is used in conjunction with the specific cultural and communication protocols for the individual community that is participating in the evaluation. For those working internationally, where such protocols may not exist, other sources of cultural information should be sought.

This cultural protocol could:

  • be used to generate discussion about cultural considerations
  • be used to clarify expectations
  • be incorporated into organisational processes to lead towards system change
  • be used to explain why cultural considerations may influence an evaluation process; local procedures, appropriate timing, avoidance and gender relationships
  • be used to inform the design and implementation of evaluation processes
  • be used as a tool to link the historical context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the impact that still resonates
  • provide an opportunity for self-reflection
  • be used to build cultural capacity and competence
  • be used as an educational tool
  • be part of the healing process
  • be used as a guide to feel comfortable to ask questions
  • deepen cultural understanding to consider sub-cultures and the complexity that exists in the political landscape
  • be used to contribute to developing cultural humility for everyone involved

Why would you recommend it to other people?

The protocol brings together information and experience from a range of sources and summarises Fred Hollows Foundation’s perspectives on important elements of cross-cultural evaluation.  We believe our thinking and synthesis will help many others working cross-culturally.

There are three elements to the Cultural Protocol for Evaluation:

  1. Reciprocal Respect
  2. Cultural Humility
  3. Acknowledgement

Each of the sets of information complement one another. Our hope is that this guidance will support and encourage good practice in cross-cultural evaluation.

1 Stockdill, S. H., Baizerman, M., & Compton, D. W. (2002). Toward a Definition of the ECB Process: A Conversation with the ECB Literature. New Directions for Evaluation (93), 1-25.

2 Suarez-Balcazar, Y., Taylor-Ritzler, T., Garcia-Iriarte, E., Keys, C., Kinney, L., Ruch-Ross, H. & Curtin, G. (2010). Evaluation capacity building: A culturally- and contextually-grounded interative framework. In F. E. Balcazar, Y. Suarez-Balcazar, T. Taylor-Ritzler & C. Keys (Eds.), Race, culture and disability: Rehabilitation science and practice (pp. 307-324). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.


Bower, M., & Malla, C., & Manhire, S., & Rogers, A. (2015). A Cultural Protocol for Evaluation. A guide for the Indigenous Australia Program team and external consultants to support and encourage good practice. The Fred Hollows Foundation. Indigenous Australia Program