Reflections on evaluators' role in community needs assessment

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Sandra M Sheppard
Elyse Fuerst


Evaluators play a critical role in shaping evaluation practices, but in practice this can be challenging to accomplish in ways that are productive as well as healing. This article discusses evaluation practices in the context of a project commissioned as needs-based to assist with community recovery after a racially motivated mass shooting in an urban neighbourhood marginalised by crime, income, race and unemployment. Development of an unmet needs survey included incorporating initial data collected by empowered community leaders with subsequent data collected by evaluators through focus groups and surveys. Evaluators then analysed and organised the data into a report that community leaders could submit to local and state officials. Identifying details were omitted out of an abundance of concern and respect for the privacy of the communities and constituents that were directly and indirectly affected by the tragedy that inspired this discourse.

This article presents a reflective discussion between evaluators on whether or not it would have been appropriate to suggest integrating an assets-based community development (ABCD) approach within a commissioned community needs assessment. It also covers the evaluators’ process of using a critical lens to retrospectively assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of adopting an asset-based community development (ABCD) approach. The discussion emphasises the importance of acknowledging and engaging with the diverse perspectives held by the wider evaluation community. It recognises, too, the value of ongoing dialogue and debate to encourage evaluators to critically reflect on the appropriateness and implications of integrating a variety of approaches within community needs assessments. This article also explores how the authors ‘made space’ for this conversation, including aspects of content analysis and consideration of crucial conversations, parameters and ethics, in the hope of further stimulating discussion and fostering a decision-making process that would encompass a range of viewpoints, ultimately driving more effective and responsive community development practices.

Article Details

Practice-based articles (Non-refereed)


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