CP TIG Week: Principled Practice by Brian Hoessler

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:

  1. Ecological Perspectives – The ability to articulate and apply multiple ecological perspectives and levels of analysis in community practice;
  2. 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;
  3. Sociocultural and Cross-Cultural Competence – The ability to value, integrate, and bridge multiple worldviews, cultures, and identities;
  4. 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,
  5. 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?

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.

1 thought on “CP TIG Week: Principled Practice by Brian Hoessler”

  1. Hi Brian,
    Thank you so much for sharing this information. It is an important topic to discuss. Evaluation is not as simple as just evaluating a program and making changes. There are so many variables and factors that need to be considered when making suggestions and approaching evaluation in general. The five foundational principles that are outlined in community psychology are really important in many areas of work. I especially appreciated step 2 “Empowerment” as it remembers that we need to create constructive conversations and make suggestions that focus on encouragement and growth. There are groups of people who lack a voice. How can we make their voices heard throughout the evaluation process? How can we create a platform where they feel heard and listened to? You mention that you have not explicitly referred to these foundational principles in your evaluation work, but why not? I think you are on to something!

    In conversing with minority groups or those who are marginalized or lack a voice, have you had any pushback or conflict arise? Are they at all reluctant to share their opinions or appear to be apprehensive? Perhaps they have felt that they have spoken up before but nothing really changed. How can we develop more trust in these community members so that real change can happen?

    In your “Hot Tip” section you explain how you look past what you immediately see (the families and individuals) and extend the evaluation into the community. This is important because if the community is not engaged then the evaluation use will not be implemented long term. The program needs to become part of the community and when we look at the five foundational principles we are reminded to do this in our evaluation.

    Thank you for sharing your insights and I appreciate your response and guidance!

    Carly

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