I’m Brian Hoessler, Founder of Strong Roots Consulting, a firm focusing on program evaluation and strategic planning for non-profits in Saskatoon, Canada. Over the past year I’ve been learning about principles-focused evaluation (as articulated by Michael Quinn Patton) that asks how principles contribute to the evaluation process. Recent discussions around competencies and our role in society have also shed light on the principles (implicit and explicit) guiding our evaluation work.
Lesson Learned: Evaluation isn’t the only field using principles. My “home field” of community psychology has identified five foundational principles in defining core practice competencies:
- Ecological Perspectives – The ability to articulate and apply multiple ecological perspectives and levels of analysis in community practice;
- Empowerment – The ability to articulate and apply a collective empowerment perspective to support communities that have been marginalized in their efforts to gain access to resources and to participate in community decision-making;
- Sociocultural and Cross-Cultural Competence – The ability to value, integrate, and bridge multiple worldviews, cultures, and identities;
- Community Inclusion and Partnership – The ability to promote genuine representation and respect for all community members, and act to legitimize divergent perspectives on community and social issues; and,
- Ethical, Reflective Practice – In a process of continual ethical improvement, the ability to identify ethical issues in one’s own practice, and act to address them responsibly (e.g., articulate how one’s values, assumptions, and life experiences influence one’s work; articulate strengths and limitations in one’s own perspective; and developing and maintaining professional networks for ethical consultation and support).
Although I have not explicitly referred to these five foundational principles in my evaluation work, I realize the strong alignment between those ideals and my practice.
Hot Tip: In evaluating programs and initiatives, I endeavour to look beyond individuals and families to ask questions about how the program (and the evaluation itself!) contributes to positive and negative outcomes for groups, organizations, and communities. I also try to take a critical lens to my practice, asking questions about who’s truly benefiting from the evaluation and planning processes and how I can better work from a position of community empowerment and inclusion. Sociocultural and cross-cultural competency is a particular focus for me right now, especially in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action to address the harmful and ongoing effects of colonization for Indigenous people in Canada.
The question, though, remains: do these principles contribute to achieving our desired outcomes?
- Patton, M.Q. (2018). Principles-focused evaluation: The GUIDE. Guilford Press.
- Society for Community Research and Action’s “Competencies for Community Psychology Practice”
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action
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