Defining Transformative Evaluation

August 16, 2013; updated April 17, 2015

My definition of Transformative Evaluation evolved over a period of several years. Currently (2015) I define it like this (for detailed discussion see Model for TE):

Transformative evaluation examines transformational community development programs. The primary focus for TE is to facilitate deeper understanding of what really matters in community development, with emphasis on development programs as a vehicle for facilitating individual and social transformation from within a Christian worldview. Primary stakeholders, including representatives of faith groups in the community, participate with the evaluator in making major decisions throughout the exercise. The evaluation design and implementation are consistent with a constructivist paradigm for inquiry along with principles for thinking and acting holistically.

In 2013 I described TE in this way:

Transformative evaluation is holistic evaluation of a transformational development program that includes the objective of renewing the evaluator’s thinking and stakeholders’ views regarding what really matters in transformational development (Cookingham, 2013, p. 10).

What is holistic evaluation?

Holistic program evaluation is the facilitation of informed judgments about the merit or worth of a program, based on verifiable evidence, in relation to people loving God and neighbor within the scope of the program (Cookingham, 2013, p.7). Click on the “holism” tag to see scripture meditations related to evaluation from a holism perspective (note added 20 JUL 2015).

For a detailed discussion of the conceptual journey go to page 6, Evolution of Transformative Evaluation (TE), in Evaluating Transformational Development Outcomes on this site. For an orientation to the essential features of TE, view the brief slide shows in this POST Transformative Evaluation Overview–6 Slide Shows.

I encourage you to comment, perhaps starting a dialogue that will help me and others deepen understanding of the concept of evaluation in general and TE in particular.

Cookingham, Frank G. (2013). Evaluating transformational development outcomes. Monrovia, California USA: World Vision International.

2 thoughts on “Defining Transformative Evaluation

  1. I like the definition. However, what do you mean by “….within the scope of the program” at the end of the statement on what is holistic evaluation. Do you mean to say that people loving God and loving their neighbors should be an intentional part program objectives and plans. In my observation some things are “caught” rather than “planned and implemented” when Christian staff live out their lives and relate to partners and communities as new creation in Christ.

    1. Probably most things that make a difference from the transformation perspective are “caught” rather than planned and implemented! What I mean is that loving God and neighbor should be in mind as every aspect of the program is planned and implemented.

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