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.

Formative evaluation

provides information to guide program improvement. This also includes:

  • Process evaluation determines whether a program is delivered as intended to the targeted recipients (Rossi et al, 2004). Formative and process evaluations are appropriate to conduct during the implementation of a program.

Summative evaluation

informs judgments about whether the program worked (i. e., whether the goals and objectives were met) and requires making explicit the criteria and evidence being used to make "summary" judgments. Summative strategies also include:

  • Outcome evaluation focuses on the observable conditions of a specific population, organizational attribute, or social condition that a program is expected to have changed. Outcome evaluation tends to focus on conditions or behaviors that the program was expected to affect most directly and immediately.
  • Impact evaluation examines the program's long-term goals. Summative, outcome, and impact evaluation are appropriate to conduct when the program either has been completed or has been ongoing for a substantial period of time (ATDSR, 2011) (Rossi et al, 2004).

Regardless of your strategy or intervention, you will likely have three primary goals driving your engagement evaluation effort:

  1. To inform the development of your activities and programs (formative evaluation)
  2. To improve upon the process and success for future efforts (process evaluation)
  3. To assess the outcomes and impacts of your activities and programs (summative evaluation)


Rossi, Peter Henry, Mark W. Lipsey, and Howard E. Freeman. "Evaluation: A systematic approach." Sage Publications, 2004.

"Principles of Community Engagement: Second Edition." Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), 2011.