CP TIG Week: Abraham Wandersman on Demystifying Evaluation: Even A Fourth Grader Likes Empowerment Evaluation

Hi, I’m Abe Wandersman and I have been working since the last century to help programs achieve outcomes by building capacity for program personnel to use evaluation proactively.  The words “evaluation” and “accountability” scare many people involved in health and human services programs and in education.   They are afraid that evaluation of their program will prove embarrassing or worse and/or they may think the evaluation didn’t really evaluate their program.   Empowerment evaluation (EE) has been devoted to demystifying evaluation and putting the logic and tools of evaluation into the hands of practitioners so that they can proactively plan, implement, self-evaluate, continuously improve the quality of their work, and thereby increase the probability of achieving outcomes.

Lesson Learned: Accountability does not have to be relegated solely to “who is to blame” after a failure occurs e.g., problems in the U.S. government initial roll out of the health insurance website (and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius’ resignation) and the Veterans Administration scandal (and Secretary Shisinski’s resignation). It actually makes sense to think that individuals and organizations should be proactive and strategic about their plans, implement the plans with quality, and evaluate whether or not the time and resources spent led to outcomes. It is logical to want to know why certain things are being done and others are not, what goals an organization is trying to achieve, that the activities are designed to achieve the goals, that a clear plan is put into place and carried out with quality, and that there be an evaluation to see if it worked. EE can provide funders, practitioners, evaluators, and other key stakeholders with a results-based approach to accountability that helps them succeed.

Hot Tip: I am very pleased to let you know that in September 2014, there will be a new EE book: Empowerment Evaluation: Knowledge and Tools for Self-Assessment, Evaluation Capacity Building, and Accountability (Sage:Second Edition) edited by Fetterman, Kaftarian, & Wandersman.   Several chapters are authored by community psychologists including:  Langhout and Fernandez describe EE conducted by fourth and fifth graders; Imm et al. write about the SAMSHA service to science program that brings practice-based programs to reach evidence-based criteria; Haskell and Iachini describe empowerment evaluation in charter schools to reach educational impacts; Chinman et al describe a decade of research on the Getting To Outcomes® accountability approach; Suarez-Balcazar,Taylor-Ritzler,  & Morales-Curtin describe their work on building evaluation capacity in a community-based organization; and Lamont, Wright, Wandersman, & Hamm describe the use of practical implementation science in building quality implementation in a district school initiative integrating technology into education.

Rad Resources:

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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