Assessment and evaluation of community participation: developing a toolkit

Staff involved: Gwyn Jolley

Community participation in health planning, implementation and evaluation is one of the key principles of primary health care as well as being an expectation of funding bodies. Gwyn Jolley has been developing a toolkit for assessment and evaluation of community participation in community health projects.

Community participation can include participation by patients, clients, consumers, community representatives, community members and citizens in community health planning, implementation and evaluation. Participation can occur at any or all stages of health service decision making and can be at any number of levels from high (when the participant has control) to low (where the participant receives information). Levels are not mutually exclusive and participation may occur at several levels simultaneously.

The toolkit recommends building the community participation evaluation into the planning stage. The first steps are to reflect on the level of commitment from staff and consumers, to be clear about the purpose of community participation, to invite individuals or representatives to be involved, to plan support and, to consider how input from the community will be used.

The toolkit will provide a framework for evaluating community participation. It has been developed from a number of international frameworks and pulls together key themes that provide the basis for deciding evaluation questions and indicators. Evaluation questions are provided to help organisations identify and address issues as they arise. Examples of questions and guidance on establishing indicators for each question are included. It also covers how and when to plan data collection and has a number of practical examples.

Community participation is likely to be only one topic of the evaluation effort so it is important to choose priority questions and to keep the evaluation manageable. Organisations will need to consider what is realistic in terms of their own resources.