Community Psychology TIG Week: Tips For Evaluating Community Inclusion Principles (I)

We are Susan M. Wolfe and Kyrah Brown. Susan is a community consultant at Susan Wolfe and Associates, LLC where she provides evaluation and capacity building services to nonprofit organizations and community collaboratives.  Kyrah is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington where she conducts community-based maternal-child health (MCH) research and provides evaluation capacity building support to local MCH coalitions and collaboratives.

Many of the collaboratives we work with are working to eliminate health, education, or other disparities, which requires a focus on equity and justice. To achieve equity and justice, collaboratives employ a community development approach whereby those who are most affected by inequities and injustices are fully engaged in leadership and making decisions about the matters that affect their lives.

In an AEA365 blog July 27, 2017, we introduced six principles to promote equity and justice from the January 2017 article titled Collaborating for Equity and Justice: Moving Beyond Collective Impact. Two of the principles address community inclusion:

  • Principle 2: Employ a community development approach in which residents have equal power in determining the coalition’s or collaborative’s agenda and resource allocation.
  • Principle 3: Employ community organizing as an intentional strategy and as part of the process. Work to build resident leadership and power.

In this blog, we share some resources and tips for evaluating the extent to which collaboratives are fully implementing these principles.

Rad Resource: In his book Principles Focused Evaluation: The GUIDE, Michael Quinn Patton (2018) introduces concepts and shares examples that are helpful for thinking through and framing an evaluation that includes assessing principles.

Evaluators assessing community inclusion need to understand and have insight into what community inclusion really means. At the lowest level, is may be forming community advisory groups that look good, but have no actual power, or convening community residents to help implement a program or campaign designed by outsiders to change the residents, not conditions.

Hot Tip: Advisory groups that have no voice about actions taken are not true inclusion. If you are evaluating a collaborative and there is a community advisory group, examine related documents to determine the extent to which this group has final say over what will be done. If they have none, then it is not true inclusion.

A somewhat higher level of engagement may involve community members by bringing them together to share information or gather their input on issues via surveys or focus groups. Another strategy is to hand pick “worthy” or “suitable” community members for boards and executive committees.

Hot Tip: Surveys and focus groups can yield useful data, but they are not true community inclusion. Additionally, if the data are being interpreted through the lens of individuals with privilege, the findings may not truly represent the community voice. Community members should be included in the development of the measurement tools and on the analysis team, with final decision authority over what is reported.

More tips tomorrow!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating CP TIG Week with our colleagues in the Community Psychology Topical Interest Group. The contributions all week come from CP 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.

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