Agner, J., Gralapp, S., Pruitt, A. S., & Barile, J. P.
American Evaluation Association Annual Conference, Washington D.C.
Publication year: 2017

Participatory evaluation approaches differ from conventional evaluation approaches in that they emphasize shared decision-making, reduce power differentials between stakeholders, utilize diverse forms of data collection, and involve stakeholders in all aspects of the evaluation process including question development. This approach to evaluation is gaining momentum among evaluators who work within a social justice lens. However, social service agencies that serve marginalized communities often operate in a top-down, hierarchical fashion, where participatory approaches are not a natural fit. This conflict leads to logistical and ethical questions such as: 2) can participatory evaluation approaches work well in hierarchical settings? And 3) do evaluators have a responsibility to subtly challenge power dynamic in hierarchical social service organizations if they see potential for improving program outcomes? Examples are provided from evaluations of government funded programs in child welfare and mental health, and audience members will be asked to share perspectives from their own work.