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Community Development TIG Week: Navigating Evaluation Approaches for Community Development Impact by Norma Kok

Hi! I’m Norma Kok, and I lead the Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning Department at Citizen Leader Lab in Cape Town, South Africa. I hold a Master’s degree in Public Health and extensive experience (16 years) in monitoring and evaluation in various national and international organizations. Over the years I have witnessed the transformative power of evaluation in driving positive change.

Evaluation, a process often met with mixed emotions, serves as a critical tool for individuals and organizations to assess performance, measure outcomes, and make informed decisions in the realm of community development.

Throughout my career, I mainly conducted traditional evaluations. It is only until later in my career that I discovered the existence of developmental evaluation and the importance of it. While both, traditional and developmental evaluation serve the purpose of assessing and improving performance, they differ in their methodologies and objectives. In this blog, I will explore the differences and similarities between traditional and developmental evaluation and discuss their respective applications in community development.

Traditional Evaluation

Traditional evaluation stands as a cornerstone in the evaluation landscape, focusing on predetermined criteria to evaluate the success or failure of community programs, projects, or initiatives. By leveraging quantitative data and standardized metrics, this approach emphasizes accountability and results, providing stakeholders, funders, and decision-makers with a clear picture of program effectiveness. A key features of traditional evaluation are its reliance on a predefined set of indicators, making it particularly valuable for established community initiatives with well-defined outcomes.

Developmental Evaluation

In contrast, developmental evaluation offers a dynamic and flexible approach to assessing and enhancing interventions in the complex, ever-evolving landscape of community development where change is non-linear and cannot easily be predicted.

Tailored to navigate uncertainty and respond to emergent challenges, this methodology prioritizes real-time learning and adaptation. By focusing on generating insights and understanding the holistic nature of community programs, developmental evaluation empowers stakeholders to adapt and evolve interventions based on ongoing feedback and learning. This approach is especially suited for innovative and experimental community initiatives that require iterative and adaptive evaluation methods.

Harmonizing Tradition and Innovation in Community Development

While traditional evaluation emphasizes accountability and predefined outcomes, developmental evaluation thrives on learning and adaptation in the face of complexity and uncertainty within community contexts. Both methodologies converge on the shared goal of enhancing performance and informing decision-making, offering valuable insights to drive community development impact. By recognizing the significance of data collection, analysis, and reflection, both traditional and developmental evaluation approaches contribute to the continuous improvement of community initiatives.

Hot Tips

In the dynamic landscape of community development, the choice between traditional and developmental evaluation approaches hinges on the unique needs and contexts of community programs. By understanding the nuances and synergies between these methodologies, individuals and organizations can select the most suitable evaluation approach to drive positive change within communities. Embracing the diversity of evaluation methods allows community development practitioners to harness the collective power of tradition and innovation, ultimately fostering resilient, inclusive, and thriving communities.

As we navigate the terrain of evaluation approaches in community development, let us weave together the threads of tradition and innovation to create a tapestry of evaluation practices that empower communities to flourish and thrive.

Rad Resources

Here is a list of resources for further reading.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Community Development TIG Week with our colleagues in the Community DevelopmentTopical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our CD TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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