The Empowerment Evaluation is a method used for ensuring shared leadership in an evaluation process. This was developed by researcher Dr. David Fetterman, who describes the approach as “the use of evaluation concepts, techniques, and findings to foster empowerment and self-determination.” The purpose of the Empowerment Evaluation project is to examine barriers to implementation of RJ throughout Southern California and across multiple domains of effective change.
Additionally, the Empowerment Evaluation seeks to remedy barriers by supporting RJ practitioners and experts to assess their RJ programs using empowerment evaluation. Because each participating organization has its own unique needs, an empowerment framework invites RJ practitioners to tailor RJ program and policy goals to meet their organizations' particular needs.
Empowerment Evaluation involves three steps:
- Mission Identification
- Taking Stock
- Planning for the Future
The Southern California Restorative Justice Consortium
With the support of the Anonymous foundation, the CURes Restorative Justice Project received a grant to launch the Southern California Restorative Justice Consortium. This project brings together Higher Education institutes, public school districts, government agencies, consultants, and nonprofit organizations together to:
- Collaborate on scholarship and lessons learned to build efficacy by creating a strong network of Restorative Practices educators, advocates, and practitioners.
- Educate future generations of RP leaders for scholarship, practice, and implementation by increasing support for Restorative Practices in educational institutions.
- Research education and implementation processes to establish and disseminate lessons learned in the region.
- Create a regional model that can be replicated nationwide.
The Empowerment Evaluation project was comprised of 15 members of the SoCal Consortium representing nine organizations including institutions of higher education, Archdiocesan and public-school districts, and nonprofit/community-based organizations.
Effective change processes include vision, skills, incentives, resources, and an action plan. As Southern California Restorative Practices Consortium participants have identified, barriers to successful restorative justice program implementation exist across these domains and raise the following questions:
- Vision/Goals: Is there a shared understanding of the problems a given organization is facing and how RJ can be used to solve those problems?
- Skills: What are the training needs for a successful implementation process?
- Incentives: What motivates people to participate in RJ implementation processes?
- Resources: What are the possibilities for RJ resource sharing within and across participating organizations/schools (people, time, and financial resources)?
- Action Plan: What are the steps that would support implementation?
These four circles were themed as follows: community-building, mission-development, taking stock, and planning for the future. These four concepts form a synergistic force to catapult a program forward into a meaningful momentum with a focused sense of purpose. As proposed by Fetterman (2012), the circle processes centered four key aspects of Empowerment Evaluation as follows:
- Culture of Evidence: Decision-making was informed by evidence-based practices as opposed to personal beliefs or opinions
- Critical Friend: Participants agreed that our goal is to grow and improve implementation, and as such offered critical, honest, and/or challenging feedback. The community-building circle offers the container for these important discussions.
- Cycles of Action/Reflection: An ongoing process of seeking new information and collecting feedback from others.
- Community of Learners: Effective evaluation and capacity-building does not take place in silos of requires a community of learners open to vulnerability.
The Four Circle Processes
The empowerment evaluation includes these four circle processes:
1. Community Building
A relationship-building circle to elicit participants’ thoughts about implementation concerns within the southern California region.
2. Mission Development
A process designed to invite leaders to participate in the first step of the empowerment evaluation, defining their organization’s RJ mission. This circle will include a brief overview of empowerment evaluation so that participants understand that they can learn these steps and integrate them into their own implementation processes, in order to be able to evaluate their RJ processes as they unfold in real time.
3. Taking Stock
In Empowerment Evaluation, this entails brainstorming a list of the important things the members of each group are currently doing toward RJ implementation; prioritizing this list through voting; and then rating and discussing how well each individual and campus team feels they are doing with regard to the prioritized items.
4. Planning Next Steps
Participants will develop their action plan by organizing the activities and evidence (ratings) discussed in the Taking Stock circle into strategies that will inform each organization’s RJ goals/next steps.
After these circles are held, progress will be assessed by conducting follow-up progress checks at three months and six months after implementation of this evaluation process.
Tentative key-findings are offered below to support regional implementation for RP:
- Adult-focused restorative processes to facilitate professional working relationships.
- Race-conscious RP for decentering whiteness and exploring bias in organizational cultures.
- Guidance in self-reflection for facilitators and leaders in topics of implicit bias, social-emotional learning, and engaging in vulnerability.
- Educating the community and all stakeholders in RJ, including clearing up widely held miss-conceptions.
- Professional support and development that can be integrated into the existing functions of the organization (developing skill-building strategies that can be employed in varying settings).
- Fetterman, D. (2012). Empowerment Evaluation in the Digital Villages: Hewlett-Packard's $15 Million Race Toward Social Justice. Stanford University Press.
If you are interested in learning more about the project or reviewing the final report, please contact CURes@lmu.edu.