Building evaluation capacity in micro community organisations—more burden than benefit?
Doherty, BT and Eccleston, R and Hansen, E and Natalier, K and Churchill, B, Building evaluation capacity in micro community organisations more burden than benefit?, Evaluation of Journal of Australasia, 15, (4) pp. 29-37. ISSN 1035-719X (2015) [Refereed Article]
Building evaluation capacity in community organisations is promoted as a key means of
creating an evaluation culture that will reorient organisations towards identifying and
measuring outcomes, demonstrating achievements and enhancing accountability.
Building evaluation capacity presents a number of challenges for micro-organisations, including
limited resources for evaluation, a low existing evaluation skills base, and, an organisational
culture and practice that does not align well with evaluation tools and techniques typically
used to demonstrate program outcomes. The implementation of the Thriving Communities
Healthy Families pilot project in Tasmania, a place-based health promotion intervention
delivered through Neighbourhood Houses (NH), included an evaluation capacity building (ECB)
component. The pilot project is used in this article as a case study to illustrate the tensions that
arose for community development workers in the NH as they implemented a new program,
and contended with the demands of developing their evaluation capacity. We found that while
community development workers value evaluation and the importance of demonstrating
program outcomes, the model of building evaluation capacity of the workers themselves was
burdensome. Further, some workers perceived that evaluation activities impacted negatively on
their primary role of supporting vulnerable community members.
We conclude that, in very small community sector organisations, ECB requires an ongoing
mentoring/relationship-building approach, rather than a traditional training approach. This
has implications for how to fund ECB and raises questions on where best to focus ECB in these