CP TIG Week: How Community Psychology Values Influence Your Evaluation by Sonji Jones, Judah Viola, & Cari Patterson

Greetings! We are Sonji Jones, Judah Viola, and Cari Patterson, affiliated with National Louis University’s Community Psychology doctoral program.

We find overlap between core Community Psychology values and those for evaluation. Following are examples of how three core values emblematic of Community Psychology – empowerment, participatory approaches, and social justice – come together in our evaluation work. Briefly defined:

Empowerment considers power dynamics and is aimed at enhancing access to resources and exercising power through collective decision making.

Participatory approaches refer to collaborative strategies by which community psychologists become actively engaged with the solution process while helping to conceptualize the problem.

Social Justice underscores our commitment to fair and equitable procedures and distribution of resources.

Leadership training evaluation

Illinois Partners in Policymaking is a leadership training program designed for adults with disabilities (self-advocates) and parents of children with disabilities. Changes in their advocacy and engagement (aka empowerment) were assessed over a three-year period by attending training sessions, completing surveys, and conducting observations and interviews with participants, graduates, and staff. One team member even collaborated with participants to make digital stories about their personal transformation and calls to action for change among state-level policy to improve inclusion and supports for people with disabilities and their families.

Aligning organizational values with practice

MAAFA Redemption Project is a residential program providing wrap-around services to young men who are highly vulnerable to street violence. During a one-year project participatory approaches which included regular attendance at staff and leadership meetings, and training by MAAFA staff on their current data collection processes, were leveraged to design an evaluation tool. The use of participatory approaches positioned the consultant and staff to work together to identify gaps between the organization’s values, practice, and what they measured; revise the logic model and data collection tools; and design newly aligned tools that empowered staff to use supportive practices that meet real-time needs.

Evaluation as an engagement tool

Northside Rising (NR) supports a group working to reduce and prevent harmful substance use as part of its vision of a community of changemakers with an abundance of hope and a sense of agency, working together to affect positive change. Their ongoing research & evaluation work intentionally engages people with lived experience of harmful substances in designing evaluation questions, collecting data, and making sense of findings. NR also pays participants an honorarium for their time.

Hot Tips:

  • Emphasize capacity building. Build trusting relationships with stakeholders. Openly share evaluation processes and reflect on them together with stakeholders to demystify the process; build knowledge, skills, and comfort; as well as demonstrate value and utility.
  • Engage across multiple levels of the organization. Involve organizational leaders, project leads, partners, and community members in the design and implementation of the evaluation process, interpretation of findings, and decisions of how to apply learnings.
  • Partner with those engaged in empowerment and/or policy change.

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.

3 thoughts on “CP TIG Week: How Community Psychology Values Influence Your Evaluation by Sonji Jones, Judah Viola, & Cari Patterson”

  1. Hello all,
    Having the group that was working with their substance use problem help develop questions from their point of view is a great way to reach more people that may need assistance with this as well.

  2. Justin Garrison

    Hello, my name is Justin Garrison, I am currently learning about program evaluation. I think this was an amazing post. There isn’t much I can compare myself to. Which is great. I have taken in so much information. This is one of the readings I can look back it. Knowledge for the future.

  3. Hello all,

    I’m wondering what the psychological experts would have to say about Evaluation Use with respect to trusted relationships with stakeholders. In attempts to provide more social justice and equity within evaluations (making the results and impacts more readily available to the program staff), how do we ensure our results are used for good? When evaluations are manipulated by too much influence from decision-makers, our data can be corrupted and used for ill means (too much to one side or the other). What do you recommend for having a balanced approach in achieving equity?

    Thanks for your considerations,


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