Evaluating Engagement Efforts

Perhaps the most useful definition of program evaluation for our purposes comes from Patton (2008): “the systematic collection of information about the activities, characteristics, and outcomes of programs, for use by people to reduce uncertainties, improve effectiveness, and make decisions.”

This guides us toward evaluation that includes goals, concerns, and the perspectives of stakeholders.  While the following discussion highlights some of the key concepts and considerations embedded in the broader context of evaluation, our focus will be on those specific to community engagement concerns.

As you know, community engagement efforts come in many shapes and sizes – and importantly to meet many goals. If your evaluation strategies are to be successful, they must be directly tied to the goals of your community engagement efforts.

Evaluation strategies can be classified into two primary types depending on the information needed – Formative and Summative – and each can play important roles in our efforts to evaluate community engagement.

While it may not always be possible – or even necessary – a key element in your evaluation efforts should be establishing baseline data, generally referred to as ‘benchmarking’.

In general, evaluation processes go through four distinct phases: planning, implementation, completion, and reporting. While these mirror common program development steps, it is important to remember that your evaluation efforts may not always be linear, depending on where you are in your program or intervention.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of evaluating any program or intervention, especially your engagement efforts, is deciding what to measure and how.

An evaluation plan is a guide of your overall evaluation goals and strategies. It summarizes what you are going to do, why you are doing it, and how you will undertake the process.