That’s one of the questions that the McAuley Institute and the Development Leadership Network asked staff of community development organizations this year in a mail survey and eight case studies examining the practice of evaluation. The staff who responded identified the following characteristics of successful program evaluations:
• Staff and constituents have a high level of involvement in the process.
• The organization determines evaluation goals and standards of success for itself. Evaluations are directly linked to the mission of the organization, and so setting evaluation goals is like setting the organization’s agenda, something external stakeholders are not qualified to do.
• Results are framed in a way that can be applied directly to improving the programs and daily activities of the organization.
• Evaluators are familiar with and sensitive to the work and culture of the community development organization, allowing them to interpret evaluation results more accurately.
• The evaluation is independent of funding decisions. Without this assurance, there is pressure to minimize or cover up mistakes, which can be valuable learning opportunities for the organization and others like it.
The report, Program Evaluation Practice in Community Development, by Kesha Moore and Susan Rees, can be downloaded from their website or ordered from the Policy and Research Department, McAuley Institute, 301-588-8110.