Developing Your Strategy
Many efforts seek to employ community engagement strategies simply to build social capital and strengthen community relationships and trust. Others are designed to utilize community engagement processes to address specific challenges or issues. Whichever the case, your evaluation strategies, if they are to be successful, must be directly tied to the goals of your community engagement efforts.
If your community engagement effort is designed to address a specific issue, then your evaluation goal will be to assess the issue-specific outcomes that have occurred as a result of your program efforts. Examples might include a decrease in the number of feral pigs in an area, and increase in the acres of farmland preserved, or a decrease in the levels of sediment in a river. As described below, these are primarily summative evaluating concerns.
Conversely, if your goal is to enhance local civic participation or involvement, your evaluation goals might be concerned with evaluating how well the program reached the intended audience, involved residents in decision-making, empowered them to implement strategies on their own, or simply increased community understanding and knowledge about the community. These concerns will require formative evaluation strategies. In either case, deciding ahead of time what’s important to your project – and to your stakeholders – is a critical first step. Some of the metrics you may want to consider as you design your program are listed in Choosing What to Measure.