Empowerment Evaluation

  • August 10, 2020

There are many different methods of evaluation. When designing the evaluation component of any proposal, it is advisable to learn about the different styles of evaluation. Select a methodology that is appropriate to the project needs and budget. Empowerment Evaluation or EE is a versatile and therefore popular evaluation method that is practiced globally by organizations of all sizes. EE has been used to evaluate philanthropic or humanitarian endeavors, as well as high-level scientific projects, for example, NASA’s Mars Rover Project.

What Exactly is Empowerment Evaluation?

The major defining factor that sets Empowerment Evaluation apart from other forms of evaluation is the involvement of the entire group or community. While an Empowerment Evaluator will guide and coach the group, a hallmark of EE is the input of all involved in the project. Furthermore a key identifying feature is that this method of evaluation is more focused on development than other evaluation outcomes.

“Empowerment evaluation is an evaluation approach that aims to increase the likelihood that programs will achieve results by increasing the capacity of program stakeholders to plan, implement, and evaluate their own programs.”

David Fetterman

By involving community members, staff, and stakeholders, EE gains credibility with these groups. People as a general rule are more likely to believe in evaluation findings and take the necessary actions to improve business based on these findings if they have been involved in the evaluation process. Capacity building and self-determination are important goals of EE. There are ten principals associated with EE:

  1. Improvement
  2. Community ownership 
  3. Inclusion
  4. Democratic participation
  5. Social justice
  6. Community knowledge
  7. Evidence-based strategies
  8. Capacity building
  9. Organizational learning 
  10. Accountability


Empowerment Evaluation was created by David Fetterman, President of the American Evaluation Association (AEA)The concept was introduced at the AEA Annual Meeting during his Presidential Address in 1993. Fetterman authored two books on Empowerment Evaluation-Empowerment Evaluation: Knowledge and Tools for Self-assessment and Accountability and Foundations of Empowerment Evaluation. EE initially met some opposition but began gaining popularity and credibility when it was endorsed by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

How to Use EE

EE is largely an internal process. While an Empowerment Evaluator will likely participate in the process, the majority of the process is in the hands of staff, stakeholders, and consumers. The process begins by asking the team several questions:

  1. establish a mission
  2. review the current status
  3. plan for the future.

EE asks for an honest self-assessment of where the company or project is going, what steps they are actively taking to get there and a plan for future improvement. The next step is to monitor progress and collect data. EE asks the evaluation group to identify four metrics of progress.

  1. Baselines
  2. Goals
  3. Benchmarks
  4. Performance

Baselines allow a record of the initial data before the implementation of new goals and practices. Goals are set to make improvements. The team will monitor goal achievement by comparing performance with benchmarks. Mid-course corrections can be made if necessary. Performance assesses the final results. EE is ideal for forward-thinking companies that want to include the community in the evaluation process. EE is often used by philanthropic ventures, education projects, volunteer programs, and projects relating to science or health.

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