Evaluation Approaches

Evaluation approaches can be thought of as ways to think about, design and conduct evaluations. There are dozens of evaluation approaches to consider, however the selection will depend on the needs of your project and values and epistemologies of stakeholders involved. Community-based evaluations are often conducive to the participatory evaluation approach given its focus on engaging stakeholders and building their capacities. This section of the toolkit provides a high-level overview of different evaluation approaches.


  • Approaches (Better Evaluation) – Approaches (on this site) refer to an integrated set of options used to do some or all of the tasks involved in evaluation.Evaluation approaches have often been developed to address specific evaluation questions or challenges.
  • Impact Evaluation Primer: This primer provides readers you with the background knowledge necessary to better understand what impact evaluations are, what purposes they serve, and what benefits they have.  (PDF)

Participatory and Community-Based Evaluation

Internal vs. External Evaluation

A common question faced by organizations interested in evaluating one of their programs is whether the evaluation should be undertaken by their own staff or an external consultant. The resources provided in this section will provide you some useful information to help make this decision.


  • A fundamental choice: Internal or External Evaluation? (Conley-Tyler) – A set of guidelines is offered to assist organisations in choosing between internal and external evaluation in each particular case
  • Hiring an Evaluation Consultant (A Usable Knowledge White Paper)  – Hiring consultants of any kind is always a challenge for a not-for-profit. This paper shares some thoughts about what to look for in an evaluation consultant and how to select and hire one for your next evaluation project.

Creating a culture of evaluation within your organization

An organization with a culture of evaluation is one that is committed to using evaluation findings to inform decision-making. The resources provided in this section of the toolkit will provide you with information on how and why to foster a culture of evaluation within your organization.


  • Building a Culture of Evaluation: 30 Ideas to Apply to Your Organization (Community Solutions) – great infographic with interesting ideas for building a culture of evaluation
  • Developing a Culture of Evaluation and Research (Australian Government, Institute of Family Studies) – This paper is a guide to developing a culture of evaluation and research. It reviews what an evaluation and research culture is, and explores the actions that can be taken to develop and sustain a culture of evaluation and research.
  • Building an Evaluative Culture for Effective Evaluation and Results Management (Institutional Learning and Change Initiative) –  This brief outlines practical actions that an organization can take to build and support an evaluative culture, where information on performance is deliberately sought in order to learn how to better manage and deliver programs and services. Such an organization values empirical evidence on the results it is seeking to achieve.
  • Creating a Culture of Learning and Evaluation in a Multi-Service Nonprofit: (Ann K Emery data analysis + evaluation blog) – summary of roundtable presentation discussing how to create a culture of learning within a nonprofit organization.
  • Evaluation Process (The NonProfit Times) – Evaluating effectiveness matters. Not just because your largest donor wants to see outcomes or the report to the funder is due next week. Effectiveness is fulfilling your mission in ways that make a real difference. It’s your impact on and for those you serve. It’s personal: Effectiveness that produces meaningful impact is why you do what you do every day.
  • Mobile Learning in Evaluation for Health Leaders (UBC) – As a leader and decision maker, we know you’re busy. We also know you are constantly looking for ways to work smarter and more effectively in your leadership role. At the end of this short course you’ll have a greater appreciation for how you can better support evaluation in your organization so it can better support you.

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