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long tradition in the social sciences

Before we begin, however, we’d like to offer some definitions of terms that we will use throughout this section.

By evaluation, we mean the systematic investigation of the merit, worth, or significance of an object or effort. Evaluation practice has changed dramatically during the past three decades – new methods and approaches have been developed and it is now used for increasingly diverse projects and audiences.

Throughout this section, the term program is used to describe the object or effort that is being evaluated. It may apply to any action with the goal of improving outcomes for whole communities, for more specific sectors (e.g., schools, work places), or for sub-groups (e.g., youth, people experiencing violence or HIV/AIDS). This definition is meant to be very broad.

Examples of different types of programs include:

Direct service interventions (e.g., a program that offers free breakfast to improve nutrition for grade school children)
Community mobilization efforts (e.g., organizing a boycott of California grapes to improve the economic well-being of farm workers)
Research initiatives (e.g., an effort to find out whether inequities in health outcomes based on race can be reduced)
Surveillance systems (e.g., whether early detection of school readiness improves educational outcomes)
Advocacy work (e.g., a campaign to influence the state legislature to pass legislation regarding tobacco control)
Social marketing campaigns (e.g., a campaign in the Third World encouraging mothers to breast-feed their babies to reduce infant mortality)
Infrastructure building projects (e.g., a program to build the capacity of state agencies to support community development initiatives)
Training programs (e.g., a job training program to reduce unemployment in urban neighborhoods)
Administrative systems (e.g., an incentive program to improve efficiency of health services)
Program evaluation – the type of evaluation discussed in this section – is an essential organizational practice for all types of community health and development work. It is a way to evaluate the specific projects and activities community groups may take part in, rather than to evaluate an entire organization or comprehensive community initiative