nora's guiding Principles


I fell in love with principles as a way to guide my life when I first encountered them in 2012.

How I discovered principles in my personal life

In “Principles-Focused Evaluation: The Guide”, I share what it was like to make sense of life after my four-year-old son died. Reflecting on my parenting, it was clear that rules didn’t matter—not the number of vegetables he ate, screen minutes he viewed, or vocabulary words he heard. So what did matter? I loved him fiercely. I have no doubt he knew that. I valued his imagination, his laugh, his questions, the spark in his eye. I valued him and what he brought to our family and the world. When I could, I kept him safe. But I couldn’t keep him and when I couldn’t, I walked with him when he was scared. My son knew he was loved, he was valued, and that I would walk with him when he was scared. That’s what truly mattered. These have become my personal guiding principles.

How I discovered principles in my professional life

As I made my way from grieving back to life, I wondered: What is my purpose? Is it possible to find and fulfill my purpose through evaluation? If so, how? Can I reimagine myself as an evaluator that works in alignment with who I am becoming, not who I was? Waking Lumina, my guiding principles for professional engagement emerged. 


My professional guiding principles

  1. Engage heart, mind, and spirit in all aspects of living my life: my relationship with myself, my relationship with others, my work, and the decisions I make.
  2. Make choices that let my light shine more brightly, and engage with others in a way that supports their ability to shine more brightly.
  3. Build and deepen connections between and amongst people, spirit, nature, passion and purpose.
  4. Increase social justice and equity, recognizing my privilege and the opportunities it affords me to create change.
  5. Inspire and be inspired.

Since 2012, I have conducted numerous principles-focused developmental evaluations for social-justice oriented systems change. I engage my principles to guide how I approach the work, and I help people in complex systems discover and define their own guiding principles. People I’m working are ecstatic, relieved, curious, or all of the above when I describe a principles-focused approach. They find that principles allow us to work together while seeing the world as it actually is, see people as they are, bring people together around hard issues without asking for complete agreement of uniformity, and provide a framework for coherent systems change with room for adaptation. It’s the most human way of practicing evaluation I’ve ever experienced.

Learn More

Follow the Waking Lumina blog to learn more about how the Waking Lumina guiding principles play out in life and evaluation:


Nora F. Murphy
Executive Director

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Waking Lumina's Guiding Principles

Waking Lumina supports principles-focused changes in spaces where people are collaborating for increased social justice and equity. Through my work over the past decade as an evaluator I have seen learned 1) where there is a need for increased social justice and equity, people have experienced or are experiencing injustice and inequity and 2) where there is injustice and inequity there is trauma. I realized that when designing an evaluation, I can choose to ignore trauma, or design an evaluation that creates the space to recognize trauma and promote healing. Years of questioning and reflecting, projects gone well and poorly, and half-written articles that led me to the Waking Lumina approach, Journey Oriented Developmental Evaluation for Social Justice and Equity (JODE).   

JODE Guiding Principles

  1. Frame all social justice work as a journey that can take a turn in any direction at any time. 
  2. Focus on all aspects of the journey—past, present or future—and their inter-relationships.
  3. Understand journeys as both individual and collective, shaped by our relationships with ourselves, with others, and society.
  4. Recognize that the way we make sense of the journey—past, present and future—is through stories we tell ourselves and others.
  5. Identify and acknowledge trauma where it exists, respond with care, and create opportunities for healing.
  6. Recognize the interconnection between and importance of people’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual selves.
  7. Identify and acknowledge growth, strengths, and assets.
  8. Relentlessly pursue wellbeing, social justice and equity.