Community-Based Rehabilitation Programme Evaluations: Lessons Learned in the Field
Purpose: There is limited guidance available on the best ways to evaluate community-based rehabilitation (CBR) programmes. In this paper, we share lessons learned on suitable evaluation strategies for CBR through a South African programme evaluation.
Method: An empowerment evaluation of an early childhood development programme was conducted in April 2012. At the end of the field visit, parents, staff members and managers provided feedback anonymously about what they liked and disliked about the evaluation, and offered their suggestions. The principal investigator documented the evaluation process in a journal, recording the barriers and facilitators encountered, the participation of the 3 groups and the effectiveness of the different strategies used. The data analysis followed the principles of grounded theory.
Results: The main lessons learned about CBR programme evaluation are associated with strategies to: 1) foster active participation, 2) collect accurate and credible information, 3) build local capacity, and 4) foster sustainable partnerships. Time spent to promote a positive learning spirit and the use of participatory tools with all groups appeared critical to active engagement in evaluation activities. Sharing tools and experiences in context built more local capacity than was achieved through a formal workshop. The findings also highlight that a flexible model, multiple data collection methods, and involvement of all relevant stakeholders maximise the information gathered. Sensitivity to the impact of culture and to the reactions generated by the evaluation, along with ongoing clarifications with local partners, emerged as core components of sustainable partnerships.Conclusion: CBR evaluators must use a variety of strategies to facilitate active engagement and build local capacity through the evaluation process. Many of the strategies identified relate to the way in which evaluators interact with local stakeholders to gain their trust, understand their perspectives, facilitate their contribution, and transfer knowledge. Further research is needed on how to conduct empowering CBR programme evaluations.
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