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ENGAGE STAKEHOLDERS

Stakeholders are people or organizations that have something to gain or lose from what will be learned from an evaluation, and also in what will be done with that knowledge. Evaluation cannot be done in isolation. Almost everything done in community health and development work involves partnerships – alliances among different organizations, board members, those affected by the problem, and others. Therefore, any serious effort to evaluate a program must consider the different values held by the partners. Stakeholders must be part of the evaluation to ensure that their unique perspectives are understood. When stakeholders are not appropriately involved, evaluation findings are likely to be ignored, criticized, or resisted.

However, if they are part of the process, people are likely to feel a good deal of ownership for the evaluation process and results. They will probably want to develop it, defend it, and make sure that the evaluation really works.

That’s why this evaluation cycle begins by engaging stakeholders. Once involved, these people will help to carry out each of the steps that follows.

THREE PRINCIPLE GROUPS OF STAKEHOLDERS ARE IMPORTANT TO INVOLVE:

  • People or organizations involved in program operations may include community members, sponsors, collaborators, coalition partners, funding officials, administrators, managers, and staff.
  • People or organizations served or affected by the program may include clients, family members, neighborhood organizations, academic institutions, elected and appointed officials, advocacy groups, and community residents. Individuals who are openly skeptical of or antagonistic toward the program may also be important to involve. Opening an evaluation to opposing perspectives and enlisting the help of potential program opponents can strengthen the evaluation’s credibility.

Likewise, individuals or groups who could be adversely or inadvertently affected by changes arising from the evaluation have a right to be engaged. For example, it is important to include those who would be affected if program services were expanded, altered, limited, or ended as a result of the evaluation.

  • Primary intended users of the evaluation are the specific individuals who are in a position to decide and/or do something with the results.They shouldn’t be confused with primary intended users of the program, although some of them should be involved in this group. In fact, primary intended users should be a subset of all of the stakeholders who have been identified. A successful evaluation will designate primary intended users, such as program staff and funders, early in its development and maintain frequent interaction with them to be sure that the evaluation specifically addresses their values and needs.

The amount and type of stakeholder involvement will be different for each program evaluation. For instance, stakeholders can be directly involved in designing and conducting the evaluation. They can be kept informed about progress of the evaluation through periodic meetings, reports, and other means of communication.

It may be helpful, when working with a group such as this, to develop an explicit process to share power and resolve conflicts. This may help avoid overemphasis of values held by any specific stakeholder.