< Back to the Blog

Epilogue: Two-Eyed Seeing, a fourth bridge

two-eyed seeing image - woman in profile with transparent dark bars obscuring all but her eyes and the bridge of her nose - she appears to be looking down. On the right, Elder Dr. Albert Marshall is in profile.

Etuaptmumk as a Foundation for Learning in Visionary Intermediaries 

In the introduction to this blog series, I mentioned another interpretation of the bridges theme that I hadn’t fully developed, at the time, I was mulling over the bridge of one’s nose and how it might be used to inspire the evaluation conference.

Wikipedia defines retinal disparity as “the separation between objects as seen by the left eye and the right eye [which] helps to provide depth perception.” If you close one eye, your view is limited and flat; with both eyes open you have a broader and deeper view that makes it easier to understand the world around you and make more informed decisions.

As I was pondering ideas about the need for two eyes for a fulsome picture of the world, and that as evaluators we often find ourselves reconciling two or more perspectives, I was suddenly reminded of the Mi’kmaq concept of Etuaptmumk (click here for a pronunciation guide).

In 2019, Mi’kmaq Elder Dr. Albert Marshall accepted an award from the Canadian Evaluation Society – follow the link for some moving tributes, including from Michael Quinn Patton, one of the most widely respected voices in evaluation today. This award recognized the contribution Elder Marshall, along with his wife Murdena, have made to the field of evaluation by developing and sharing the concept of Etuaptmumk, the Mi’kmaq word which translates as Two-Eyed Seeing.

The concept is often explained as “learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing … and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all.” As Marshall continued to develop the concept, he noted that “Two-Eyed Seeing is hard to convey to academics as it does not fit into any particular subject area or discipline. Rather, it is about life: what you do, what kind of responsibilities you have, how you should live while on Earth … i.e., a guiding principle that covers all aspects of our lives: social, economic, environmental, etc. The advantage of Two-Eyed Seeing is that you are always fine-tuning your mind into different places at once, you are always looking for another perspective and better way of doing things.”

The advantage of Two-Eyed Seeing is that you are always fine-tuning your mind into different places at once, you are always looking for another perspective and better way of doing things.

– Elder Albert Marshall

There are a variety of ways Two-Eyed Seeing and my Bridge of the Nose analogy can be related to evaluation theory and practice. For example, evaluation scope is an important consideration and relates to breadth and depth of the evaluation. In fact ‘clarifying purpose and scope’ is the first of 10 Competencies for Canadian Evaluators in the Technical Practice domain and ‘working within the defined scope’ of a project is a key element of the Management Practice domain. Scope is also tied to accuracy standards for evaluation and has ethical implications for practice in terms of truth seeking, honesty and transparency. In this way, evaluators must reflect on whether they’re seeing with both eyes or limiting perspectives. 

Two-Eyed Seeing in action at Inspiring Communities

I’ve often said that one of the things I love about my job is learning about the multiple and diverse viewpoints held on whatever is being evaluated. This contrast in perspectives is at the heart of evaluative thinking and part of what I personally find to be the most interesting, challenging, inspiring and rewarding aspects of my work as an evaluation scientist.

“Evaluative thinking is critical thinking applied in the context of evaluation, motivated by an attitude of inquisitiveness and a belief in the value of evidence, that involves identifying assumptions, posing thoughtful questions, pursuing deeper understanding through reflection and perspective taking, and informing decisions in preparation for action.”

As an intermediary organization centered on equity, Inspiring Communities also has the privilege of seeing things from multiple and diverse perspectives as it interacts with many systems and partners. So perhaps its not surprising that the principles of Two-Eyed Seeing align with and are clearly reflected across IC’s own Guiding Principles.

The principle of Equity, Inclusion and Representation states the intention to work for social justice across all aspects of society and to reconcile different and sometimes opposing views. As in Two-Eyed Seeing, Inspiring Communities is guided by a principle of Starting from Strengths grounding their work in the belief that all communities have assets and there is value in focusing on those strengths and contributions.

Relatedly, the IC principle of Intentionality guides the organization to take the time needed to get to know and understand the communities and partners they work with, their perspectives, needs, assets, and challenges recognizing this relationship building is essential for the collaborative change necessary to support their vision. Similarly, Two-Eyed Seeing emphasizes the importance of learning to use “both eyes together” and supports doing so “for the benefit of all,” which aligns with IC’s principle of Mutual Benefit/Reciprocity.  

Finally, through the principle of Lifelong Learning, IC is reminded to learn from those they interact with in a way that is open to innovation and adds value to the whole. This aligns with Elder Albert Marshall’s comment that a key advantage of Two-Eyed Seeing is continuously looking for different perspectives and better ways of doing things.


Using the term Bridge as a metaphor applied to a dynamic intermediary such as Inspiring Communities shows how organizations can use evaluation to connect, to sustain, to navigate change and to add value. In organizations with strong cultures of evaluation and learning, the work becomes integrated across the organization in a meaningful way. Evaluation has many purposes and by connecting evaluation to strategy and vision, it becomes a powerful tool to meet continuously evolving needs for learning, accountability, advocacy, innovation and discovery. Likewise, the field of evaluation continues to be transformed by organizations like IC, in which traditional approaches and methods are perhaps still useful, but not sufficient to meet the demands of evaluation in complex adaptive systems.

A Further Note about Elder Albert Marshall

Elder Albert Marshall is from the Moose Clan of the Mi’kmaw Nation; he lives in the community of Eskasoni in Unama’ki – Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Other recent awards and recognitions he and his late wife Murdena have received for advancing the concept of Etuaptmumk include these:

Learn more about Albert and Murdena Marshall and the development of Two-Eyed Seeing and its continued evolution and growth here: http://www.integrativescience.ca/Principles/TwoEyedSeeing/

Read previous posts:

Photo Credits

Photo by Viviana Escobar

Share this:

Comments are closed