The Importance of Evaluation

Multi-coloured post-its placed randomly on a white board under question: What did you get out of today?

What is evaluation?

As a community development organisation that values inclusivity, respect, and accessibility, we at WSA understand the importance of evaluation in our work.

Evaluation is the systematic process of collecting, analysing, and using information to determine the effectiveness and impact of a program or initiative. It helps us and our partners to understand what works, what doesn’t work, and how we can improve our efforts to better serve the communities we work with.

One of the main reasons why evaluation is important is that it enables us all to measure the impact of actions taken. By collecting data and analysing it, you can determine whether your programs and initiatives are achieving their intended outcomes, and whether they are having a positive impact on the communities you serve. This information gathered helps you to make evidence-based decisions about how to allocate your resources and improve your services. 

The value of evidence

Without effective evaluation, community development initiatives may not achieve their intended goals and may even have unintended negative consequences. Measuring the impact of community development work is essential to understanding what works, what doesn’t, and why. This allows organisations to adjust their strategies and improve their programs over time. Additionally, funders and investors are increasingly interested in evidence-based approaches to community development. They want to know that they are making a real positive difference to communities.

Evaluation also allows us to engage in continuous learning and improvement. By reflecting on our successes and failures, we can identify areas where we need to make improvements and develop strategies to address them. This process helps us to stay accountable to our stakeholders and ensures that we are delivering the highest quality services possible.

We know that the most important people to involve in any evaluation are the people who experience the changes that occur and know the context. That’s why we work to include lived experience through interactive and accessible methods, including that provided through the support of community researchers. Community researchers really know the context and the little details that can make a huge difference to the understanding of an evaluation.

Community development and measuring change

We believe that evaluation is not just important for our own work, but also for the wider community development field. By sharing our evaluation findings with others, we can contribute to the collective learning and understanding of what works in community development. This can help to inform policy and practice, and ultimately lead to better outcomes for communities.

People working in community development need opportunities to come together for several reasons. These include:

  • building stronger communities of practice
  • sharing knowledge and resources
  • collaboration to create more impactful initiatives that are responsive to community’s needs
  • networking to build relationships that can lead to new opportunities and partnerships
  • effective advocacy for the needs of the community, and professional development and learning about new tools and best practices to improve effectiveness in the field

Incorporating a sound evaluation process into community-based work is both essential and beneficial to everyone working towards making a project successful.

Join our training course

Overall, if you’re looking to start embedding good evaluation practice into your work and want to learn more about the principles of evaluation and how it can be used to measure the effectiveness of community development initiatives, we run a CPD accredited, highly recommended training course “Evaluating Community Development and Measuring Change”. It provides valuable insights and practical tools for community development workers looking to measure the impact of their work and effectively communicate that impact to stakeholders.

Feedback from participants who have completed the course say it provided them with valuable insights and practical tools for measuring the impact of their work and how to effectively communicate this to stakeholders. The course covers methods and approaches for collecting data, allowing for meaningful discussion and reflection. Attendees have reported that the knowledge gained from this course has helped them apply more accessible ways of engaging with the community and helped to break down barriers between them and their organisation.

To read more about the course and to book click here.