This paper makes the case for a participatory and learning-oriented evaluation approach for initiatives that seek to prevent violence against women before it occurs.
Introduction: In Victoria, and elsewhere in the world, there is increasing recognition that the problem of violence against women can be addressed through social programs and initiatives to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This is innovative work requiring sound policy, programming and partnerships to make it happen – and evaluation so that something can be said about the effort.
There is a wide choice of approach to evaluation, and when it comes to evaluating innovation, choosing the right approach is imperative. As Michael Quinn Patton notes above, the wrong evaluation approach can do harm despite the intention to do otherwise. In the case of initiatives for preventing violence against women, and indeed for any other social innovation program, the choice of evaluation approach can make the difference between having useful information for practice and ending all work before the full effects of the effort (and its potential to influence change) are ever really known.
This paper makes the case for a participatory and learning-oriented evaluation approach for initiatives that seek to prevent violence against women before it occurs, on the grounds that this is the best choice of evaluation for such work at this stage in its development as a practice. The argument is based on the experience of the Preventing Violence against Women team at the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth), as it went about doing participatory and learning-oriented evaluation with (and for) five funded projects, from 2008 to 2011.
In the pages that follow, readers will see why means and not ends are important to focus evaluation, especially when it comes to social programs that are innovating. They will learn about the black box of social programs and see why getting inside them is so important for grasping the achievements and successes of innovation. They will be taken deep into the tradition of participatory evaluation and exposed to the power of the personal in facilitating both use and learning. They will find the key ingredients for effective evaluation capacity building. They will hear from Simone de Beauvoir. They will see that paradigms operate at every level of an evaluation, which makes the right choice of approach for preventing violence against women initiatives even more critical.
On a practical level, readers will learn about overseas funding and grant-making bodies that have taken the lead in building a culture for participatory and learning-oriented evaluation. They will find 11 guiding principles for VicHealth’s participatory and learning-oriented evaluation of initiatives for 1 preventing violence against women. They will also see an outline of how VicHealth’s Preventing Violence against Women team put these principles into practice.