Frameworks & Approaches


Frameworks & Approaches provide ways to gather and make sense of data

Empowerment Evaluation

Empowerment evaluation encourages communities to monitor, evaluate and improve their performance. It aims to foster self-determination and build capacity. It does this by supporting people to assess their own activity.

For small social service organisations, this usually means engaging an external evaluator to support them to build evidence and learn how to review their own activity.




Core principles of empowerment evaluation are:

  • Stakeholders, including staff members, community members, funders and participants, should participate directly to decide an evaluation’s purpose, design and how to use results.
  • Frank and honest collaboration among stakeholders.
  • The process should be clear.
  • Methods should reflect community wisdom and scientific evidence.
  • Evaluators should be accountable to programme administrators and to the public.
  • A focus on improvement.
  • Organisational cultures and individual thinking should change as a result.
  • It should help achieve fairer allocation of resources and contribute to reduced social inequalities.
  • It should help organisations use data to learn and increase their ability to self-review.

When applied in combination, these principles form the heart of empowerment evaluation.


David Fetterman, an American evaluator, developed Empowerment Evaluation. Although it can be applied to individuals, organisations, communities and societies or cultures, the focus is usually on programmes.

David Fetterman contrasts traditional evaluation and empowerment evaluation:

Traditional evaluation Empowerment evaluation.
Done externally Done internally
Expert evaluator Any external evaluator is a coach or critical friend
Dependency Self-determination and capacity building
Independent judgement Collaborative judgement


Benefits of empowerment evaluation include:

  • The people concerned decide how they will gather evidence or evaluate.
  • The organisation builds capacity and capability in the process so they can do the work themselves in the future.


Criticisms of empowerment evaluation include:

  • Its reliance on self-study.
  • Potential lack of rigour and integrity or ‘pseudo-evaluation’.
  • Difficulty distinguishing empowerment evaluation from other participatory approaches.
  • Limited evidence of the success of the approach.

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