Program evaluation in Social work: Empowerment evaluation


  1. Introduction
  2. Establishing a mission
  3. Taking stock
  4. Planning for the future


Empowerment evaluation employs evaluation concepts, techniques, and findings to encourage programme improvement and self-determination for a specific target population/program participants. Empowerment evaluation is value-oriented, with the goal of involving programme participants in bringing about change in the programmes to which they are assigned. Integrating programme participants in the evaluation process is one of the main focuses of empowerment evaluation. This is frequently followed by some form of critical reflection on the programme. In such cases, an external/outside evaluator acts as a consultant, coach, or facilitator to programme participants, attempting to understand the programme from their perspective. After gaining a clear understanding of the participants' perspective, appropriate steps and strategies can be devised (with the participants' valuable input) and implemented to achieve desired outcomes.

According to Fetterman (2002) empowerment evaluation has three steps;

  1. Establishing a mission 
  2. Taking stock 
  3. Planning for the future

Establishing a mission

The first step entails evaluators asking programme participants and staff members (of the programme) to define the program's mission. Evaluators may choose to carry out this step by gathering such parties and asking them to generate and discuss the program's mission. The logic behind this approach is to demonstrate to each party that different perspectives on the program's mission may exist.

Taking stock

The second step, taking stock, entails two critical tasks. The first task entails programme participants and staff compiling a list of current key activities that are critical to the program's operation. The second task is to rank or prioritise the key activities that have been identified. For instance, each party member could be asked to rate each key activity on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the most important and one being the least important. During this task, the evaluator's role is to facilitate interactive discussion among participants in order to establish a baseline of shared meaning and understanding about the key activities. In addition, when discussing some of the key activities, relevant documentation (such as financial reports and curriculum information) may be brought into the discussion.

Planning for the future

The next step is to plan for the future after prioritising the key activities. In this section, the evaluator asks programme participants and staff how they would like to see the programme improved in relation to the key activities listed. The goal is to create a thread of coherence in which the mission (step 1) guides the inventory (step 2), which serves as the foundation for future plans (step 3). As a result, specific goals are aligned with relevant key activities when planning for the future. Furthermore, it is critical for programme participants and staff to identify possible forms of evidence (measurable indicators) that can be used to track progress toward specific objectives. Goals must be related to the program's activities, talents, resources, and capability scope—in other words, they must be achievable.

These three steps of empowerment evaluation result in a programme that is more effective and responsive to the needs of the target population. Empowerment evaluation, as a process led by a skilled evaluator, equips and empowers participants by teaching them a "new" way of critically thinking about and reflecting on programmes. It also encourages programme participants and staff to recognise their own ability to affect programme change through collective action.


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