Degree Name

Master of Arts - Research


School of Humanities and Social Inquiry


This thesis examines Empowerment Evaluation, a form of stakeholderinvolvement oriented program evaluation, whose use has become widespread over the last 20 years. Empowerment Evaluation is designed to encourage the empowerment of participants in the evaluation, and their development of program evaluation skills (Evaluation Capacity Building) within an evaluation approach where primary and final decision-making power is in the hands of the participants. In such a process the evaluator’s role is as a resource, facilitator, and critical friend, rather than as decisionmaker.

Various applications and interpretations of Empowerment Evaluation are examined, together with the particular concept of empowerment involved, in terms of their practical application. Empowerment can be regarded as both a process and a state of being. It can refer to (i) self-efficacy, (ii) the ability or permission to use a skill, or (iii) a change in group or community power relations. This thesis argue that empowerment in Empowerment Evaluation is best operationalized as a practice and goal of direct democratic decisionmaking within the evaluation process, analogous to workers’ control in industry.

Six already existing case studies of self-described Empowerment Evaluations were examined and showed a consistent association between strong commitment to empowerment as change in group relations/control and maintaining direct democratic decision-making within the evaluation process. They also showed a consistent association between having a primary goal of Evaluation Capacity Building and abandoning direct democratic decision-making under the pressures of time and resources. These were the same pressures that were successfully resisted when empowerment as a change in group or community power was given equal importance.

This has implications for program evaluation theorists and practitioners. It points to those situations where Empowerment Evaluation would not be the most suitable approach. It also shows the essentiality of clarity and commitment to the direct democratic decision-making process involved in a fully successful EE. The conclusions justified the thesis that empowerment in Empowerment Evaluation can be usefully operationalized as analogous to workers’ control.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.