Community development: a critical review of approaches to evaluation
With the growing interest in community-based initiatives, this discussion paper focuses upon the evaluation of community development. It reviews three areas and highlights the complex and contentious nature of evaluation in this field. Commencing with approaches to evaluation, it critically reviews proposed methods and suggests that, rather than provide clarity and guidance, the competing designs are confusing for the potential researcher. Second, the discussion moves to evaluative terms that are applied to community development, suggesting that there is a mismatch between professional and lay interpretations with an ultimate impact upon the validity of their measurement. It uses the terms community and empowerment to make these differences more explicit. Finally, the paper argues that, although the aim of community-based initiatives is to bring about community health gain, gauging the pervasiveness of discreet project work is testing. It concludes by suggesting that a move away from an evaluative model based upon empowerment towards one which considers health and social capital may be a way forward.