May 26 (1 day ago)
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Patton's Review of Our New Book is Out
(joined by our response to it)
Patton's review of Fetterman, Kaftarian, and Wandersman's new book is out in Evaluation and Program Planning. Jonathan Morell is the editor. We have provided a few highlights to give you the flavor of the discussion. It is followed by some of the dialogue that was generated in the AEA listserv EVALTALK by this book review and response.
Patton Book Review
Empowerment Evaluation: Knowledge and Tools for Self-Assessment, Evaluation Capacity Building, and Accountability, 2nd edition, D.M. Fetterman, S.J. Kaftarian, A. Wandersman (Eds.). Sage Publications (2015)
This edited volume has done the great service of clarifying, at least for me, what constitutes the core of empowerment evaluation (EE).
Stewart Donaldson, current (2015) president of the American Evaluation Association and one of evaluation’s most distinguished Thought Leaders (including recipient of the 2013 AEA Lazarsfeld Award for contributions to evaluation theory), has written the Foreword to the book and I find no reason to quarrel with his assessment of EE.
“This book marks the 21st anniversary of empowerment evaluation, an approach that has literally altered the landscape of evaluation. David M. Fetterman introduced the approach as part of his presidential address to the American Evaluation Association in 1993. Since that time, it has gone viral and is practiced vigorously throughout the United States and in more than 16 countries. Empowerment evaluation has been a leader in the development of stakeholder involvement approaches to evaluation, setting a high bar for quality and rigor. In addition, empowerment evaluation’s respect for community knowledge and commitment to the people’s right to build their own evaluation capacity has influenced the evaluation mainstream, particularly concerning evaluation capacity building. One of empowerment evaluation’s most significant contributions to the field has been to improving evaluation use and knowledge utilization. This book represents the culmination of decades of dialogue." (Donaldson)
In 2009, Stewart Donaldson, current (2015) president of the American Evaluation Association, organized and moderated a debate about the value of empowerment evaluation between David M. Fetterman, Michael Scriven, and me at the Claremont Colleges (Donaldson, Patton, Fetterman, & Scriven, 2010). In the debate I noted that 10 empowerment evaluation principles seemed like a lot to manage, so I asked David Fetterman, which of the 10 principles are actually critical?
The fidelity issue focuses on the extent to which a specific evaluation sufficiently incorporates the core characteristics of the overall approach to justify labeling that evaluation by its designated name.
Perhaps I should add that the issue of evaluation approach fidelity is much on my mind since I have been facing the issue with both utilization-focused evaluation and developmental evaluation…I recently identified nine essential elements of developmental evaluation
So, after 21 years and global recognition, this is what the lead EE conceptualizers have to say about empowerment. ‘‘People empower themselves.’’ I understand that this is the politically correct thing to say. I also understand that such a sentiment could be experienced as insulting and offensive with connotations of blame the victim. However experienced, it is such a simple-minded framing of the complexities of empowerment, that I found myself embarrassed for the editors that they would conclude such an important book with such a trite, glib, and insubstantial observation.
…there is much of value here, strong evidence of an approach that, well facilitated and comprehensively engaged, can make a substantial difference. I will look forward to a third edition that further clarifies and elaborates what it means to be well-facilitated and comprehensively engaged, and perhaps even brings some sophistication to the issue of empowerment itself.
Empowerment evaluation is a systematic way of thinking: A response to Michael Patton
The essence of EE is a systematic way of thinking, not a single principle, concept, or method. Empowerment evaluation, first and foremost, helps people evaluate their own programs and initiatives. It is the use of evaluation concepts,techniques, and findings to foster improvement and self-determination
It is an evaluation approach that aims to increase the likelihood that programs will achieve results by increasing the capacity of program stakeholders, to plan, implement, and evaluate their own programs (Fetterman & Wandersman, 2007).
We presented the theories, concepts, principles, and steps guiding empowerment evaluation. However, his (Patton's) focus was almost exclusively on the principles.
It is the gestalt or whole package that makes it work. Empowerment evaluation theory, concepts, principles, and steps are used to guide practice. Patton’s critique is off-target because it focuses on individual parts or principles, failing to recognize that empowerment evaluation is more than the sum of its parts (including ‘‘essential’’ parts).
We explained how these principles work together synergistically. For example, the first principle, improvement, reflects the pragmatic and utilitarian nature of empowerment evaluation. The aim is to help people improve their programs and practice and succeed in accomplishing their objectives. Community ownership is required to make this happen in a meaningful and sustained manner. This is linked to process use. The more people take ownership of the evaluation, the more committed they are to using the evaluation findings and follow through on the recommendations. Authentic community ownership requires inclusion. It cannot be a single elite group making all the decisions….The same type of synergy and interconnectivity applies to the remaining combination of principles.
11. "People empower themselves"
Patton rescued this gem from the obscurity of our appendix. It speaks to the heart of empowerment evaluation. It brings us full circle in our response to his review. We began by explaining how people are in charge of their evaluation in an empowerment evaluation. It is appropriate to conclude with this reminder. We made the principles explicit because we found too many empowerment evaluations were in name only (see Miller & Campbell, 2006; Fetterman & Wandersman, 2007). Similarly, we think it is appropriate to remind colleagues that empowerment evaluation places control in hands of staff and community members. This simple but fundamental feature is what most clearly defines empowerment. For some, this may be cryptic, embarrassing, PC, or even pabulum. For us it succinctly captures the essence of self-determination verses dependency, empowerment verses disempowerment.
We appreciate Patton’s placement of empowerment evaluation in the ‘‘pantheon of major approaches’’ (2015, p. x). We also appreciate his invitation to continue this engaging and productive dialog. It is our hope that this response illuminates and contributes to the evolving dialog about the science and practice of empowerment evaluation
Contact Dr. David Fetterman if assistance is needed securing these publications.