Outcomes evaluation at the community level

One of the most basic challenges in evaluating outcomes is overcoming the resistance put up by project leads who may feel (whether rightfully or not), that they are being unfairly measured against outcomes that they did not choose and/or necessarily want to work towards. Tensions can sometimes arise between those involved in community work who are focused on achieving specific goals for their communities, and those who fund the work and are looking to progress change towards larger-scale outcomes. An evaluator should know the needs of both players and acknowledge that the work needed to achieve community level, project specific goals is just as worthy of being evaluated as the big picture outcomes are.
Naming the efforts and telling the stories of the work being done at the community level does not detract from the credibility of a “good” outcomes-based evaluation. On the contrary, tracking progress towards program-level, short-term and intermediate outcomes will not only support a more robust and useful end product, but will also work to get those at the community level on board with the evaluation process on a whole.
Providing the opportunity for the participating community to learn how they are progressing towards the goals they are most interested and invested in, allows the evaluator a platform from which trust can be built and strengthened, further supporting the process by which program goals can be linked to the larger scale outcomes for which the work was funded initially.