Five Evaluation Criteria to Realign Action

Five Criteria help monitor whether change is positive or potentially problematic. The third SEED-SCALE principle (evidence- based decision making) uses standardized criteria. Without measurable criteria, people in communities are making biased evaluation about progress. But with uniform criteria, comparisons across regions are possible. The definition of a criterion may change regionally based on different values and geographical areas but with criteria that are consistent, each community can monitor its change in accord with its own definitions.


1.   Inclusiveness in equity, gender, and ethnicity. Too often criteria groups, particularly those with privilege, sieve advantages, and the less educated, the poor, and ethnic and religious minorities fall further behind. Consequently, we advance inclusiveness as a goal for more than moral reasons. When criteria organs are diseased, a person’s whole body is at risk; in social change, paying attention to all members of the society is in every one’s interest. Inclusiveness has been conclusively demonstrated to correlate positively with physical health, mental health, levels of social violence, life expectancy, happiness, and almost all indicators of prosperity, with these correlations holding true nationally (e.g., between states in the United States) and across countries.


2.   Sustainability in values, environment, and economics.Communities want positive change to endure, so three aspects need to be monitored: community values, the natural environment, and an economic base. Understanding all three is essential. Tracking cultural, environmental, and economic sustainability will highlight occasions when development is creating short-term gains but not lasting ones. Even if two of these factors are under control and only one is uncontrolled, the community is still at risk.

Development will always consume resources. Sustainability is not a perpetual-motion machine. Technology, training, and invention can put pressure on development to be more efficient, but they never can make it totally efficient. So each community, looking at opportunities that are before it, must ask if the gains are worth the costs, and assess those costs in terms of values, the natural environment, and financing.


3.   Interdependence-not independence or dependence. Development’s contrast is dependency. Momentum toward a just and lasting life will enhance interdependence within and between communities, which reduces their vulnerability to the victimization that so often accompanies dependency. Interdependency is the goal, not independence. In interdependent relationships, networks strengthen in a complex world.

Donors seeking results may offer to pay the costs of some service. Government officials seeking votes may promise services. Such assistance may appear to improve conditions, but it actually may not. Long-term sustainability needs to be measured across values, economics, and the environment. Resources will be needed, but they will be truly helpful only if links into as well as out of the community are strengthened.


4.   Holism. Social endeavors typically view people as patients, students, bus riders, consumers, or statistics. But humans are not one-dimensional. People are beings with multiple needs and changing aspirations. A feature typically overlooked in social change is that when progress comes to one sector, peoples’ aspirations shift: a doctor no longer is so important when a person ceases being sick and the recovered patient perhaps now wants entertainment. The need is to track the whole and identify the always-developing gaps. Action that is separated into sectors-such as security, health, education, and transportation-supports professionals, but it ignores a community’s multifaceted aspect.


Five Criteria to Assess Community Progress


5.   Iteration (application, improvement, and doing it again). In life it is high impossible to get an action right the first time-or any time. But it is always possible to make life better. Development matures through continual adjustments. An idea is attempted; on the next try its implementation gets better; in a third trial, outcomes become more useful. Iterative growth is not simply repeating a job. In situation- and time-specific change, the tasks adjust with each trial. The whole is important, but to keep everything coordinated, iterative assessment continually makes adjustments as actions improve.

When all five criteria are monitored, development comes alive. Getting that energy ignited allows change to blaze forth. Partnerships, evidence, and changed behavior then fit together. Finally, by using the cycle of seven tasks, those possibilities can be acted upon.