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An Exploratory Study of Participatory Evaluation and HOPE VI Community Supporitve Services

  • Author(s): Moschetti, Wendy
  • et al.
Abstract

By recommendation of Congress, the Department of Housing and Urban Development chartered the HOPE VI program in 1993 to put a new face to America’s public housing. With HOPE VI grants, public housing authorities either demolish and rebuild or refurbish their most “physically distressed” housing over a 3–5 year period. HOPE VI grants are designed to improve the quality of life for public housing residents through physical revitalization, a decrease in the concentration of low-income families, and the building of sustainable communities. All HOPE VI programs are required to institute a “Community Supportive Services Plan” to ensure that residents at HOPE VI sites receive comprehensive social services.

HUD did not require evaluations of HOPE VI programs until 2000, and in-depth information about residents’ experiences with the program is lacking. This report proposes a participatory evaluation approach for filling in such information gaps. Based upon literature reviews and interviews with key stakeholders in a local HOPE VI program at Easter Hill Village in Richmond, California, this report introduces the practice of participatory evaluation and presents the strengths and challenges that participatory evaluation (PE) might bring to HOPE VI. This report suggests direction, methods, and strategies for current and future HOPE VI evaluations.

PE is a process of implementing an evaluation that is guided by certain beliefs, principles, and theories. This process is collaborative and includes multiple realities and experiences. Like all forms of evaluation, PE requires an evaluation design, clear questions, goals and objectives, data collection, analysis, and reporting. The main difference between participatory evaluation and other forms of evaluation is that a variety of people affected by the program, not the professional evaluator alone, are responsible for designing those questions and goals and interpreting the data.

There is, on the face, a strong connection between the observed goals and outcomes of the PE process and the purported community building goals of HOPE VI social services. PE has the potential to strengthen HOPE VI services by increasing the amount of available information regarding the impacts of HOPE VI on residents’ lives and bringing truth and power to HUD’s claims of resident participation and leadership in program planning. Residents, social service providers, and HOPE VI staff involved with the Easter Hill HOPE VI program suggest that increased participation in evaluation would afford them leadership opportunities and would improve the effectiveness of social services by further integrating the evaluation with the program. These stakeholders indicate that an active and transparent program as well as on-going communication amongst stakeholders would facilitate their interest and ability to participate in both program and evaluation activities.

In order to create an environment conducive to PE, HOPE VI stakeholders’ initial focus will be on building relationships and increasing communication. PE and HOPE VI services already share common goals, and PE has been shown to produce useful and rich qualitative information about program functioning. National HUD staff, local housing authority HOPE VI staff, and professional evaluators should begin sharing information about participatory methods and begin implementing such methods in HOPE VI programs by first establishing forums in which stakeholders can collaborate, and then building a devoted and participatory evaluation team.

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