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 who each bring unique perspectives. When stakeholders are not appropriately involved, evaluation findings are likely to be ignored, criticized, or resisted. People who are included in the process are more likely to feel a good deal of ownership for the evaluation plan and results. They will probably want to develop it, defend it, and make sure that the evaluation really works. Therefore, any serious effort to evaluate a program must consider the viewpoints of the partners who will be involved in planning and delivering activities, your target audience(s), and the primary users of the evaluation data.
Engaging stakeholders who represent and reflect the populations you hope to reach greatly increases the chance that evaluation efforts will be successful. Stakeholder involvement helps to ensure that the evaluation design, including the methods and instruments used, is consistent with the cultural norms of the people you serve. Stakeholders can also influence how or even whether evaluation results are used.
All partners in your substance misuse and abuse prevention or reduction efforts should be involved in developing and implementing your evaluation plan. To facilitate this process, you may consider forming a committee focused on evaluation. The committee would work in collaboration with an evaluator to collect the data, analyze results, and share findings with partners, the community, the media, and others. Having more people trained in data collection and analysis and able to spread the word about the group’s successes contributes to sustainability.
A strong evaluation system can provide monthly data about activities and accomplishments that can be used for planning and better coordination among partners. In addition, sharing evaluation data can give the group a needed boost during the long process of facilitating changes in community programs, policies, or practices.
You may want to continue working with the same stakeholders who served as your key informants (etc.), or you might want to reach out to new stakeholders.