Feasibility Study for the Evaluation of DHHS Programs That Are or May Be Operated Under Tribal Self-Governance. Methodology for Small Group Discussions


The Small Group Discussions, conducted by Kauffman and Associates, Inc. (KAI), brought together Tribal leaders, experienced Tribal program managers and technical experts in Self-Governance program management to provide feedback and response to preliminary findings and conclusions related to this study.  These discussions provided another means for review and analysis of draft findings and conclusions.  A qualitative analysis of these discussions was conducted to identify “major themes and issues” that emerged across the board.  These major themes informed the study team and the Technical Work Group prior to finalizing reports.

People recruited to participate in the Small Group Discussions included Tribal leaders, Tribal management and technical staff with direct experience in the administration of Self-Governance compacts, including financial managers, management information system (MIS) directors, legal or regulatory analysts, program administrators and related positions. Sign-up sheets were provided prior to each group to make sure we had the appropriate mix of expertise in each session and adequate space to conduct each session.

The Small Group Discussions occurred between September and November 2003.  Locations for these discussion groups included the annual consumer conference of the National Indian Health Board, September 29-October 2, 2003, in St. Paul, MN; the National DHHS/DOI Tribal Self-Governance meetings, October 6-10, 2003 in Palm Springs, CA; and. the annual convention of the National Congress of American Indians, November 16-21, 200, in Albuquerque, NM.  At both the NIHB conference and the DHHS/DOI Tribal Self-Governance meetings, a separate room or break-out session was provided to conduct these discussions.  Rich and substantial qualitative data was collected during these sessions.  Less effective was the session conducted at the NCAI gathering, where this topic was one of several on a busy agenda.  Comment sheets were distributed but few turned in from the NCAI event.  The majority of comments reflected in this report are from the NIHB and the Self-Governance meetings.

Each discussion group involved 10 to 25 individuals representing a mix of interests and experiences from Tribes and Tribal organizations, including both Self-Governance and non-Self-Governance Tribes.  Individuals were recruited through fliers, inserts in conference packets or by appearing on the conference agenda as a workshop option. 

Topic Areas and Prompt Questions:

KAI staff facilitated these discussions.  An overview was provided and a written summary of the Draft Findings and Conclusions distributed for review. The following discussion guide was generally followed, however the flow of conversation generally centered upon three main topics:  (1) reaction to the draft findings and conclusions; (2) omissions in the draft; and (3) best outcomes for this feasibility study.  The following are the questions in the formal Discussion Guide:

  1. Facilitator describes what this feasibility study did and did not do:
    • Facilitator explains why this study was done. (purpose)
    • Facilitator describes the difference between an evaluation feasibility study and an actual program evaluation.
    • Q & A regarding this overall study
  2. Identification of feasible alternatives for measuring success
    • What are participants’ reactions to the options proposed for measuring success?
    • What other means exist to evaluate success?
    • How would this differ between IHS and other HHS programs?
  3. Facilitator reviews the preliminary findings and recommendations
    • Do these preliminary findings and recommendations reflect your experiences with SG?  Give examples of why or why not.
    • What’s missing?
  4. What is the best outcome from your perspective for this feasibility study?
    • How do you see these preliminary findings or recommendations impacting future opportunities to expand SG compacting to other programs of HHS?
    • How can this study help local planning for SG?
    • Any other comments?