1st Edition

Participatory Evaluation in Youth and Community Work
Theory and Practice

ISBN 9781138184381
Published December 6, 2017 by Routledge
190 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations

USD $46.95

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Book Description

Evaluation is an essential element of professional practice. However, there is little in the literature that is designed to help students involve and support young people in evaluating the impact of youth work activities. This comprehensive book explores current thinking about evaluation in the context of youth work and community work and offers both theoretical understanding and practical guidance for students, practitioners, organisational leaders and commissioners.

Part 1 provides underpinning knowledge of the origins, purpose and functions of evaluation. It charts the developments in evaluation thinking over the past 50 years, and includes an exploration of ‘theory of change’. Concepts such as impact, impact measurement and shared measurement are critically examined to illustrate the political nature of evaluation. Findings from empirical research are used to illuminate the challenges of applying a quasi-experimental paradigm of evaluation of youth and community work. Part 2 introduces the reader to participatory evaluation and presents an overview of the histories, rationale and underpinning principles. Empowerment evaluation, collaborative evaluation and democratic evaluation are examined in detail, including practice examples. Transformative Evaluation, an approach specifically designed for youth and community work, is presented. Part 3 focuses on the ‘doing’ of participatory evaluation and offers guidance to those new to participatory evaluation in youth and community work and a helpful check for those already engaging. It provides valuable information on planning, methods, data and data analysis and processes for sharing knowledge.

This essential text will enable the reader to reconstruct evaluation as a tool for learning as well as a tool for judging value. It provides a comprehensive reference, drawing on a wide range of literature and practice examples to support those involved in youth and community work to develop and implement participatory approaches to evaluating and communicating the meaning and value of youth and community work to a wider audience.

Table of Contents


What is youth work?

What are youth work outcomes?

Overview of book

PART I. Evaluation: Nature, Politics and Tensions

Chapter 1: What is Evaluation?

Unpacking ‘evaluation’

What is evaluation for?

Different paradigmatic approaches

The evolving nature of evaluation

Introducing ‘Theory of Change’

The problem with evaluation

Chapter 2: The Politics of Evaluation

The political context

Understanding ‘impact’

Shared measurement

What counts as ‘evidence’?

Chapter 3: Practitioners’ Tensions and Dilemmas

Generating data replaces ‘real’ work

Accounting systems are reductionist

Funder-led practice

Tensions between targets and authenticity

Tensions between targets and values


PART II. Participatory Evaluation

Chapter 4: What is Participatory Evaluation?

Defining participatory evaluation

Underpinning philosophy and values

Developments in participatory evaluation

Participation and empowerment

Models of participation

Making the case for participatory evaluation in youth and community work

Chapter 5: Participatory Evaluation Approaches

Similarities and distinguishing features

Empowerment evaluation

Empowerment evaluation in practice

Collaborative evaluation

Collaborative evaluation in practice

Democratic evaluation

Democratic evaluation in practice

The challenges associated with stakeholder involvement

Chapter 6: Transformative Evaluation


Theoretical foundations

Transformative evaluation in practice

The four stages of Transformative Evaluation

Challenges associated with transformative evaluation

Tried and tested

Chapter 7: Learning in Participatory Evaluation

Learning and accountability: A dichotomy?

Learning in evaluation

Five types of ‘process use’

Learning in the moment

Learning through collective reflection


PART III. Participatory Evaluation in Practice

Chapter 8: Preparing for Evaluation

Clarifying and articulating purpose

Developing a theory of change

Considering ethics

Engaging stakeholders


Chapter 9: Data in Participatory Evaluation

Who ‘generates’ data?

What data are needed?

Quantitative and qualitative data

Issues of trustworthiness in participatory evaluation

Factors influencing decisions about data generation methods

Chapter 10: Methods for Generating Data





Chapter 11: Analysing Data

Approaches to data analysis

Analysing quantitative data

Analysing qualitative data

Content analysis

Coding data and generating themes

Content analysis in Transformative Evaluation

Involving stakeholders in data analysis

Chapter 12: Sharing Knowledge

Voice, audience and message

Writing an evaluation report

Other forms of sharing knowledge

Meta-evaluation: Sharing learning about evaluation




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Susan Cooper was a youth worker and a youth work manager for thirty years before joining Plymouth Marjons University, UK, as a senior lecturer and Programme Leader for undergraduate and postgraduate Youth and Community Work courses. She developed her expertise in participatory evaluation during her doctoral studies and has supported a range of youth work organisations in the UK and across Europe to develop their use of participatory evaluation.


'Bringing her extensive practice, research and teaching experience to the task, Susan Cooper provides an excellent and welcome treatise on participatory evaluation, confidently putting young people at the centre of the process. Offering a step by step method, this timely book will enable practitioners, not only in youth work but in the human services more widely, to incorporate evaluation as a core aspect of empowering practice.' - Dave Ward, Professor of Social and Community Studies, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK


'Participation seems to be a taming force in evaluation, making it fit the youth work context. Using a participatory approach  enables us to recognizing the value of different opinions and it gives people their say. But as Sue Cooper reminds us, participation is not just about evidence and youth work, but also one way of keeping democracy alive in modern society. Every politician should read this book.' - Anu Gretschel, Senior Researcher Ph.D., Finnish Youth Research Network, Finland