Turning Points project evaluation
The Turning Points project is a documentary short series filmed in Yellowknife, NWT. The series, published by the Global Reporting Centre in partnership with PBS NewsHour, features eight films co-created by Indigenous storytellers. The series broadcast between late 2020 through to November 2021.
The stories explore alcohol use, addiction, and healing alongside topics like grief, intergenerational trauma, family and relationships, residential school, and the Sixties Scoop. And unlike a traditional documentary, the storytellers themselves were the directors of their own films, with support from the Global Reporting Centre’s team on things like production, videography, and sound editing.
We call this approach to production “empowerment journalism,” a term coined by the Global Reporting Centre’s founder and former executive director Peter Klein. Empowerment journalism focuses on the co-creation of stories.
“Stories about alcohol use among Indigenous people are often overlooked or misrepresented by the media. By sharing editorial control with the featured storytellers, Turning Points aimed to alter typical power dynamics that can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and misinformation. Participants not only chose what they spoke about, but also assisted with aspects of production like selecting locations and editing the final pieces. They were the writers and directors of their own films. Participants also retain control over all material produced—raw footage was returned to each storyteller after filming, and they keep copyright of the stories.”—How we produced this series, Global Reporting Centre
For a full description please see: How we produced this series on the Turning Points project website.
Once production and post-production were completed, and final drafts of stories had been approved by storytellers, the Global Reporting Centre commissioned an independent evaluation, conducted by Reciprocal Consulting Inc:
“Our team is grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing and being, and Reciprocal Consulting Inc has been in operation since 2003.
We have been an award-winning firm, and leaders in culturally responsive evaluation, research, mentoring, project management and training.
We are committed to a strengths based approach with both communities and organizations, that encourages participation and collaboration in accordance with our Vision, Mission, and Guiding Principles.”—Reciprocal Consulting
For more information please visit their website.
The goal behind the evaluation was to conduct an independent and unbiased review of the empowerment approach and the Turning Points project and to establish best practices, and lessons learned for empowerment journalism for future projects.
Evaluation work began in late 2019 and concluded in 2020 with delivery of the final report. To ensure confidentiality among respondents, the full report is for internal use only. It will be used to inform ongoing practices at the GRC. However, we are able to share all of the report recommendations below.
Evaluation recommendations and wise practices
(Note: this section consists of excerpts taken verbatim from the final report by Reciprocal Consulting.)
This report describes the evaluation of the Turning Points Project, which focuses on empowering storytellers in journalism endeavours and works to develop meaningful and trusting relationships with Indigenous Elders and community. Informed by participatory action research, empowerment journalism includes arts-based methodology, Indigenous epistemology, and modified participatory-citizen journalism, the Turning Points project worked with storytellers in the Northwest Territories to highlight stories that illustrate the complexities of alcohol use in Indigenous communities.
The objectives of this evaluation were multifaceted, such that it included a process and outcomes evaluation of the Turning Points project, whereby feedback was sought on the design, delivery, outcomes, strengths and challenges, as well as lessons learned throughout the duration of the project.
A strengths-based and participatory approach was taken in this evaluation, where the evaluation team and the Turning Points Project team worked together to launch the evaluation, discussing and confirming the evaluation scope, reviewing the methodology, and opportunities to provide feedback on the evaluation data collection tools. Data were collected through interviews with Turning Points staff and project team, storytellers, and advisory committee members, which focused on the evaluative areas of program engagement, program design and delivery, impacts, and lessons learned.
Dissemination of the project
- Continue to promote and showcase participatory and self-determining approaches to journalism with Indigenous communities, particularly approaches where people are empowered to share their story from their own perspective
- Continue to involve communities in dissemination and sharing of final product
Design of the project
- Continue to include filmmakers and production teams that are willing to try new approaches and who support and foster cultural safety for storytellers
- Continue to account for additional time required in the process of filming and production as the participatory community approach takes more time than standard production
- Consider building in additional time in the production process specifically to review the content for safety for family members and community in regard to privacy and confidentiality
- Continue to foster relationship building as a key aspect of the design and implementation of the project, where the project team and storyteller build a trusting relationship and work together to translate the story and vision of the storyteller into film
- Consider having an editor in the field or facilitate direct communication with storytellers for increased involvement in the storyteller’s narrative
Implementation of the project
- Continue to demonstrate dedication and commitment to the project in terms of time and resources when the project duration changes
- Consider creating a stronger mechanism and structures for communication between advisory members, and between the advisory committee with other members of the project team
- Continue to deliver the project in a way that is empowering and culturally safe, where storytellers feel ownership of their own story
- Continue to engage in equitable and ethical journalism
- Consider sharing best practices from this project with other media outlets and journalism schools to disseminate and expand good practice of journalism in Indigenous and northern communities
- Consider working in collaboration with other broadcasters and journalists to create concrete ways that mainstream traditional journalism can include culturally safe and meaningful inclusion of Indigenous people and their stories
- Consider advocating for larger journalism bodies to support capacity building in northern and Indigenous communities for creating independent news outlets run by and for Indigenous people
- For future projects, consider hiring more local project team/staff to help build community connection as well as to maintain perspective of the community and overall impact
The GRC commits to consulting the recommendations that are set forth by this evaluation in all of our work with and in communities.
To address the recommendations set forth on sustainability — particularly numbers 12 and 13 — the GRC has developed an Empowerment Journalism Guide, which is publicly-accessible and has been shared widely with newsrooms, filmmakers, university-based programs (including relevant centres and journalism schools), and other stakeholders. This guide is based not only on the Turning Points project and evaluation, but also from conversations with 21 industry professionals, including Peabody, Academy, and Emmy award-winning filmmakers, as well as newsroom leaders, editors, community reporters, and authors who are all practicing their own forms of community-engaged reporting.
The Empowerment Journalism Guide can be found online and downloaded for print purposes from the Global Reporting Centre website.
We created this guide for journalists, editors, producers, non-fiction authors, filmmakers, storytellers, and anyone interested in learning more about best practices for working with and in communities.
This is not a typical how-to guide. There is no checklist or comprehensive approach to empowerment reporting — we encourage you to simply take what you find useful—Empowerment Journalism Guide
Under sustainability recommendations numbers 14 and 15, the GRC would like to acknowledge the important work of our Turning Points Advisory Board/Team member Garrett Hinchey. Hinchey is the Managing Editor of CBC North. His report, Reclaiming Our Narrative: A Roadmap to Local Participation in N.W.T. Media, investigates “underrepresentation of local, particularly Indigenous, journalists in N.W.T newsrooms” and sets forward recommendations for capacity building.
The GRC also maintains a constant commitment to the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion in our reporting and in our newsroom. An updated version of our DEI principles, including our actionable goals, is forthcoming.