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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The examination of an empowerment evaluation approach in a healthy living initiative of a non-profit organization Lawrence, Tamara


Youth often have little say in the development of programs designed to improve their health (Fiscus, 2003; Mitra, 2004; Brown, 1991). This is because adults often believe they know what youth need and therefore program without input from them. This problem is being addressed by a non-profit organization in the Greater Vancouver region that is using the empowerment evaluation approach to incorporate the input of girls and young women into the planning and evaluation of a healthy living initiative. Empowerment evaluation is a strategy that seeks to "help program participants evaluate themselves and their program to improve practice and foster self-determination" (Fetterman, 2001). The purpose of this study was to examine the implementation of an empowerment evaluation approach from the perspectives of staff, volunteers, and female youth in the case study non-profit organization. The specific research questions were: i) What factors were considered when deciding to implement an empowerment evaluation approach into a healthy living initiative? ii) How was it integrated into program planning, implementation, and evaluation? iii) What benefits and challenges were identified during the start-up phase? iv) What factors affected the sustainability of the empowerment evaluation approach over the course of the research? Qualitative research methods were employed including: observations, focus groups, interviews, and a document analysis. These data collection tools are consistent with a case study research strategy where the purpose of the study is to examine how organizational members interpret processes around them (Marshall & Rossman, 1995). Four focus groups were held; two with clients (n= 7), one with volunteer mentors (n=6) and one with members of the Healthy Living Committee (n=3). Three one-to-one interviews were held, one with a client and two with former Healthy Living Committee members. A document analysis was performed on some of the organization’s existing materials. The results revealed that the volunteer and staff of the organization unanimously agreed that seeking input and feedback from clients would be valuable. Six of the eight clients interviewed also expressed a desire to be more involved in program planning and evaluation. But to date, the clients had not been engaged in the planning or evaluation of programs, except for being asked to fill in a survey after each activity. The findings were consistent with an adult-oriented top down approach to program planning where youth can be viewed as problems to be fixed or dependents to be taken care of (O’Donohue et al., 2002). Based on the results of this study, recommendations have been made to the organization to engage the clients more and to develop guidelines to ensure that youth are involved in utilizing data gathered from internal surveys and in subsequent decision-making. Further research can examine the levels of empowerment felt by the clients before and at different stages during the empowerment evaluation approach and factors that can make empowerment evaluation sustainable in not for profit youth serving organizations.

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