My name is Korinne Chiu and I am a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I have a great interest in how program evaluation can contribute to evidence-based policy-making. I have assisted with evaluations and grants at the local and state levels on mental health and educational programs. One of the challenges that I have encountered is engaging community agencies and their representatives in evaluation. Here are some tips to engage community agencies in the evaluation process:
Hot Tip – Practice participatory evaluation: Collaborate at the outset of the evaluation process. Have community agency staff as well as community members at the table when planning the evaluation. Community agencies bring context and perspective to the evaluation and can provide information on the feasibility of recruiting participants, the practicality of implementing changes, where to access specific types of information, as well as to provide feedback in order to ensure that evaluation results are presented in an accurate and practical way. Participatory evaluation encourages continuous communication between evaluators and the community agency.
Hot Tip – Explain the evaluation process: By making agencies aware of the purpose of an evaluation, expectations of the evaluation process can be clarified. By explaining the purpose of an evaluation to agencies, agencies can become aware of what the evaluation intends to do, who the intended audience is, and how the findings will be used. Explanations can also demonstrate how the evaluation will benefit the community agency and their representatives directly as well as how to be data-driven when making inter-agency decisions. Clear explanations of the evaluation process with allow stakeholders to explain the process to other community partners and may aid in buy-in from other stakeholders.
Hot Tip – Be open to learning and teaching: Community agencies have a lot of experience and perspective to offer to an evaluation. Agencies also know the context in which their work is implemented and particular challenges or strengths of the areas in which they serve that may be important to the evaluation process. In addition, as an evaluator, provide opportunities for community agencies to understand the evaluation process and the data collected. Collaborate with the community agency to share evaluation findings with stakeholders and develop ways to improve community-based programs provided by the agency.
Resources – Here are a few resources that I have found helpful:
- Principles of Community Engagement: CDC/ATSDR Committee on Community Engagement
- CDC Evaluation Working Group: Steps in Program Evaluation
- Building Capacity of Community Organizations in Outcome Evaluation (pdf)
- King, Jean. (1998). Making Sense of Participatory Evaluation. New Directions for Evaluation, 80, 57-67.*
- Participatory Evaluation. What is it? Why do it? What are the Challenges? (pdf)
*If you are a member of AEA, you have free members-only access to this article from NDE – and all back content from NDE. Just sign on to the AEA website and navigate to the journals.
This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to learn more from Korinne? She’ll be presenting as part of the Evaluation 2010 Conference Program, November 10-13 in San Antonio, Texas.