Unit 7: Unpacking Sustainability in CBPR Partnerships
Section 7.1: Using Partnership Evaluation for Managing, Planning and Strategizing
In order to ensure that the principles and operating procedures adopted by the partnership are being followed, and that an effective partnership is being established and maintained, partnerships need to conduct an ongoing participatory and formative evaluation of the partnership process.
Such an evaluation involves partners in the design and conduct of the evaluation (e.g., determining questions to be asked, how data is collected), and provides ongoing feedback of the results to the partners in ways that are understandable and useful (e.g., written reports, verbal presentations). All partners need to be involved in the interpretation of the findings and applying them to make changes in the partnership process, as appropriate.
It is important to use process evaluation to monitor the health of the partnership. Process evaluation can be done relatively simply and inexpensively. It does not require a full or part time evaluator. For example, facilitated reflective discussions can be incorporated into regular board meeting agendas, periodic online surveys can gather anonymous information from partners and graduate students or consultants can be engaged to conduct annual face-to-face interviews with partners. Even with an informal process, the information gathered can provide valuable insight into the direction of the partnership. For example, an informal evaluation process might entail having the chair of the partnership board interview partners between meetings to assess their satisfaction with the partnership.
Evaluations that identify strengths and areas for growth and improvement will help partnerships make changes that increase their chance for success. Evaluation findings should be presented at least annually to the partnership board (or other governing and advisory bodies) to determine whether changes need to occur within the partnership. The board should allocate time to discuss the value of the evaluations and what response if any is needed. Evaluation findings can be used to reflect and critique the partnership process and relationships.
As partnerships and their membership progress over time, it is especially important to document decisions and their rationale. Documentation helps partnerships to create a mutual understanding, and also serve as a record of the decisions made by the partnership, should conflicts arise in the future regarding a particular issue or decision.