Aligning Cultural Responsiveness in Evaluation and Evaluation Capacity Building: A Needs Assessment with Family Support Programs

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Virginia Tech


Family support programs serve vulnerable families by providing various forms of support, such as education, health services, financial assistance, and referrals to community resources. A major feature of evaluation involves assessing program effectiveness and learning from evaluation findings (Mertens and Wilson, 2012). Collaboration and cultural responsiveness are important topics in evaluation which remain largely distinct in the literature. However, evaluation capacity building provides a context for exploring possible intersections.

Data about seven programs were collected via semi-structured interviews and document analysis. This study revealed that the program leaders feel that their programs are unique, complex, and misunderstood. The findings also suggest that program leaders believe that evaluation is important for program improvement and funding. Although participants did not anticipate evaluation capacity building and did not readily express a desire to develop their own evaluation skills, participants from all seven programs enthusiastically expressed interest in evaluation capacity building once explained.

Although participants did not discuss cultural responsiveness as it relates to race, they expressed a need to overcome a community culture of reluctance to participate in programs and aversion to educational pursuits. Given the programs' shared population of interest, similar outcomes, and common challenges, evaluation capacity building in a group setting may give Roanoke family support program leaders the evaluation knowledge, skills, and peer support to engage in program evaluation that is both collaborative and culturally responsive.



program evaluation, evaluation capacity building, cultural responsiveness, family support, Collaboration, organizational learning