Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Health Sciences


This study reports the use of empowerment evaluation with a national school breakfast program in Australia known as the Good Start Breakfast Club (GSBC).

The project comprised two key aspects. First, the empowerment evaluation (Fetterman, 2001) approach was used as the framework to develop a ‘practical’ methodology desired by the program managers (Australian Red Cross) and major sponsor (Sanitarium Health Food Company at the time of the study) to evaluate their program. Good Start Breakfast Club personnel engaged in a process of self-evaluation and, in so doing, a suite of ‘practical’ evaluation tools was developed. During the application of empowerment evaluation the researcher served as facilitator and evaluation ‘coach’, offering evaluation expertise throughout the process. Second, the impact that empowerment evaluation has had on the delivery of the GSBC program is reported in this case study. These impacts were examined at two main levels: first on the capacity of program personnel to contribute to the evaluation, and second on changes that occurred in relation to program delivery as a result of the empowerment evaluation.

Eighty Good Start Breakfast Club personnel took part in ten empowerment evaluation workshops during 2005 to: identify key program activities for investigation; gather baseline data about the strengths and weaknesses of the activities; suggest goals and strategies to monitor and improve the activities identified; and to develop evaluation tools designed to provide evidence of success.

The empowerment evaluation approach was successful in generating a high level of cooperation and commitment from workshop participants to the on-going evaluation process. It was also effective in building evaluation capacity in the relatively short period of the study with participants reporting having had their knowledge and understanding of participatory program evaluation enhanced. Nine evaluation instruments were trialled during 2006 with respect to four key program activities: providing a healthy breakfast to children in greatest need; positively changing or influencing the eating habits of children; improving the learning capacity/learning environment of children attending the GSBC; and social interaction in the GSBC environment.

The research project makes a significant contribution to the field of evaluation practice on at least two fronts. First, early versions of the case study have contributed to the professional field of program evaluation with presentations made at three international conferences of the Australasian Evaluation Society, one at the annual conference of the American Evaluation Association and a paper published in the Evaluation Journal of Australasia. It is advancing knowledge about a contemporary program evaluation approach and about a community-based program of significant public interest in Australia. Second, evaluation methods and associated tools were prepared and implemented at trial sites by non-specialist program personnel in preparation for widespread use across the Good Start Breakfast Club program. Three survey instruments were subsequently rolled out across the program in three Australian states. It is envisaged that the findings of this study and the results derived from the on-going evaluation of the Good Start Breakfast Club, while of particular significance to the program’s sponsors, will be applicable to sponsors of school breakfast and other community-based programs throughout the world.

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